How I hate this phrase! Going through my morning routine I was listening to Breakfast TV and, as has been the norm for the past 10 days or so, there were a number of reports on the riots which gripped the country for 4 days. There were 3 separate references to the phrase ‘keeping them off the streets’ referring to young people - one from the news reporter herself, one from a politician and one from a young person who was taking part in a youth initiative in his community - yes even he said ‘it (the youth initiative) keeps me off the streets!’
So by definition what happens when they are ‘on the streets?’ The expression implies that these people can only be kept out of trouble whilst actively engaged in some kind of project or initiative so at times when they are ‘on the streets’ them must be out of control. Even worse what happens when they are no longer eligible due to their age to belong to any of these initiatives? They are ‘on the streets’ permanently then. How would it feel to grow up knowing that you had to take part in a youth initiative just ‘to keep you off the streets’?
The only person who spoke sensibly was the young youth worker who referred to the initiatives helping young people gain their self respect, to take responsibility for their behaviours, to engage in community spirit, to learn life skills which will stand them in good stead in life generally not just whilst on the project.
Boy do we need more like him!