No riots for Glasgow: How one charity is tackling gangs

By Angela Kail 17 November 2011 3 minute read

In August, riots hit the streets of major cities across the country, leaving behind a trail of charred shops, damaged homes and injured people. Blame was placed on gangs, family breakdown, community fragmentation, unemployment, poor education and coalition cuts. Areas of high deprivation offer conditions ripe for gang culture, so it is surprising that the riots did not spread to Glasgow’s housing estates, such as Easterhouse, where poverty and unemployment have fuelled gang warfare for half a century. So how did Easterhouse avoid the riots?

In recent years Easterhouse has been transformed, with improvements in housing healthcare and education, and a significant drop in gang violence. While many of these changes have been driven by the government, one charity, Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse (FARE), has played a major role.

Established in 1987 by local residents, FARE is a grassroots organisation that grew in response to the community’s needs. At first, FARE mainly addressed crisis issues, but recently it has explored what it could do to prevent one of the biggest issues affecting the community: gangs.

There are 15 known gangs in the area, and FARE saw that territorial disputes accounted for a lot of the violence and crime occurring on the estate. The gangs created a culture of fear, stopping people moving freely between areas. FARE developed an approach to tackle the rise of gangs which aimed to educate and engage children before they moved into secondary school, as this time of transition is when young people are most likely to join gangs.

FARE has been funded for nine years by one of NPC’s clients, the Execution Charitable Trust (ECT), which celebrates its tenth anniversary today. When ECT first approached FARE, it was run by a handful of dedicated staff, working in a centre that in a previous life was six council flats. It now has 44 staff members and volunteers, who run 60,000 sessions every year, including street work, workshops in primary schools, youth clubs and classes for adults. With ECT’s funding, FARE also offers financial and mentoring support to local people who are going through higher education. In 2010, FARE bought a brand new purpose-built centre, which has allowed it to build a sense of community, bring in young people across gang territorial lines and hold more activities for people of all ages. With the new building, participation in FARE’s activities has increased by 50%.

Rosemary Dickson, chief executive of FARE, says ECT’s support has been vital to the charity’s growth and sustainability. ‘Unrestricted funding made it possible to have one person dedicated to the task of raising £1.6m capital for the building. A process that would have otherwise taken at least two to three years or longer.’

Addressing the root causes of the riots will take time, but FARE shows the importance of local charities in generating solutions to prevent such problems, and the vital role of corporate funding for charities like FARE. As a result of its work, able to be carried out thanks to ECT’s funding, no gang fights have been reported in Easterhouse in the past two years, youth disorder has significantly dropped, and hundreds of young people are in education, employment and training.

Execution Charitable Trust’s annual trading day to raise money for charity is today. A version of this case study has appears in their 10 year report.