Young black boys ‘need better role models’

Black communities need to put forward positive role models to counter gang culture, ministers have been told.

Government-commissioned research calls for a cultural shift from rappers, sportsmen and celebrities to lawyers, doctors and other professionals.

Conducted by Reach and drawing on experts from education and business, the report argues the government and black communities need to promote mainstream careers over drug crime and gang violence.

Reach chairman Clive Lewis said: “We need to focus effort on raising the aspirations and achievement of black boys and young men to enable them to be more connected and engaged with wider society and more able to make an even greater contribution economically, culturally and politically to Britain.”

To enable this, the report calls for a national role model programme where black professionals could put themselves forward as mentors for teenagers.

It also calls for greater input from parents, arguing for a stronger relationship between parents and schools to promote educational achievement.

The panel said raising the aspirations of black urban teenagers could boost the economy by £24 billion over the next half century. Failure to address the problem would conversely cost society in terms of the economic cost of crime, punishment and social support.

The year-long study was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and saw researchers interview 400 teenagers in five cities.

Ministers have broadly welcomed the report’s recommendations.

Unveiling the research in Manchester this morning, communities secretary Hazel Blears said the emphasis placed on role models was very important.

“At the moment most role models are rap stars and sport stars. What has been a really clear message is young black boys want to see black men who have been successful in business, in retail, becoming doctors and accountants.”

Ms Blears told the BBC role models were most effective in the community as mentors rather than on television.

The government will formalise its response to the report within the next three months.