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Kids join gangs to find direction and focus, says youth ambassador

PUBLISHED: 15:56 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 09:52 12 August 2010

A SCOUT enthusiast will take on the role of youth ambassador months after his predecessor left in a cloud of shame. The London Assembly member for Bromley and Bexley James Cleverly was appointed to the new post of Ambassador for Young People last Thursda

A SCOUT enthusiast will take on the role of youth ambassador months after his predecessor left in a cloud of shame.

The London Assembly member for Bromley and Bexley James Cleverly was appointed to the new post of Ambassador for Young People last Thursday to work alongside Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor for policing.

The new post replaces the Deputy Mayor for Young People role which Ray Lewis was forced to quit last summer over allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including one of fleecing a man with special needs out of money when he was a vicar in the 1990s.

But Mr Cleverly insists the job is not tainted and he agrees with Mr Lewis's 'tough love' stance.

The Lewisham resident said: "Being in gangs isn't an easy life option. They often have very strict rules. Kids aren't going to them because it is an easy life. They are looking for structure and authority, a sense of focus and direction.

"If we as a society don't provide them with these, they will go looking for them. I agree with Ray on this."

But the honorary vice-president of Bromley District Scout Council says he is not looking for the state to provide this structure. Instead, he will rely on existing voluntary organisations which he will help to co-ordinate.

He said: "Youth strategy isn't just about crime. It is not just about dealing with kids who have gone off the rails - it is making sure they don't go off the rails too and helping them get the most out of their opportunities.

"I have already been involved with and was on the board of the London Development Agency."

The father-of-two said he had no plans to launch any new policies and would be working from the Time for Action document, which was published by the Mayor last November.

He said: "I was involved in the Time for Action document. In addition to that, we always made it clear it was an evolving document.

"We are not going to turn our backs on good ideas.

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