Rachael Maskell MP
Rachael Maskell MP

Yesterday in the House of Commons Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central asked a Parliamentary Question in which she invited the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford, to meet her to discuss the serious safeguarding issues that York has been experiencing with young people congregating in open spaces such as the Little Knavesmire.

York’s MP explained that throughout the summer she met with residents living in close proximity to the Little Knavesmire and they have explained how the failure to provide proper youth services, has resulted in groups of young people congregating in the area every night. They are concerned about the significant levels of alcohol consumption, drug dealing and the large amounts of litter left behind.  There have also been incidences of vandalism and of people urinating behind the cricket club, in addition to residents having sleepless nights as music is played at high volume.

Ms Maskell has explained to the Minister that she is concerned that there is a risk of young people being exploited and the long term consequences of this.  This is a serious concern and Ms Maskell is keen to do everything she can to keep young people safe.

Rachael Maskell has visited the Little Knavesmire area a number of times throughout the summer and she has spoken to the residents, local businesses and the young people themselves.  Rachael Maskell has been raising her concerns with the police and local authority who she believes need to work together to safeguard young people and invest in good quality youth services in York.  The council must resolve this.  Ms Maskell wants the local authority need to take a public health and safeguarding approach to protecting young people and they are failing to do this.

Rachael Maskell MP says:
“Throughout the summer I received large numbers of emails from constituents who told me they were concerned by the large numbers of young people congregating on the Little Knavesmire every evening.  As well as the noise from the young people, there were  youths on motorcycles revving up and down and also large numbers of cans and bottles left behind. The Little Knavesmire is a huge asset to York and it is visited by hundreds of people every day who want to walk or simply enjoy the open space. She is further concerned that the Hamilton Panthers and the Cricket Club are having to clear up the aftermath of these nightly gatherings before sport can be played. It is unacceptable for it to be left in this condition day after day.  Bottles get smashed and the glass presents a danger to everyone who uses the area, including dogs walkers.

“However, my main concern is that young people are at risk of exploitation and taking part in risk taking behaviours; it is not safe, and is deeply concerning. Young people are safe when they are at school but we need to protect them at all times.  I have spoken to the police who are doing everything within their powers to help.  Whilst the number of young people meeting on the Knavesmire is tapering off as the nights draw in there is a need to act now to prevent this problem occurring again next year and the year after. The Council needs to adopt models of youth provision to prevent this risk occurring elsewhere in the future.

“As one resident put it, “This is public land, it has an unlicensed bar, it has no public toilets, it has no age limit for its use, no controls on its noise levels, and yet if it were a pub, it would be subject to stringent regulations. The indictment is that this public land belongs to the Council which is failing to safeguard the young people using it.” This calls for sombre reflection.  This is why I asked the Minister if she would meet me to discuss my concerns. As this has gone on for too long without young people being safeguarded.

“I am pleased the Minister has agreed to a meeting and I hope we can work together to make our communities safer for everyone.”

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