Violence strategy 'provides little' to help council efforts, children's leaders warn

By Neil Puffett

| 11 April 2018

Government plans to tackle serious violence do not do enough to help councils develop local responses to the issue, the Association of Directors of Children's Services has warned.

ADCS president Stuart Gallimore says early intervention is key to tackling serious youth violence. Picture: ADCS

The serious violence strategy, unveiled by Home Secretary Amber Rudd earlier this week, stressed the importance of early intervention to tackle the root causes of serious violence and steer young people away from crime.

It also provides an £11m Early Intervention Youth Fund to support community projects that help steer young people away from violence.

But Stuart Gallimore, who took over as ADCS president from Alison Michalska this month, said there is scant provision within the strategy to assist councils in addressing the issue. 
"The strategy emphasises the importance of local communities and partnerships yet provides little for local authorities to develop local responses," Gallimore said.

He said austerity and funding cuts in recent years have taken their toll on youth services.

"The impact of austerity, cuts to youth services and across the public sector on the availability of positive activities for young people within their communities cannot be understated," Gallimore said.

"Add to this staggering levels of child poverty and stubbornly high numbers of young people not in education or training, leaving young people with nowhere to go making them more vulnerable to exploitation by gangs.

"Prevention and early action is key, this must involve co-ordination of a wide range of services, including those to support families and young people, but also stimulating housing, employment opportunities and community facilities."

Meanwhile, The Children's Society said a promised £3m to create a new centre to tackle the issue of "county lines" crime, which involves gangs from urban areas establishing drug-dealing networks in rural areas, is an important step forward in helping police combat criminal exploitation and identify and support victims, but added that the problem "cannot be solved by police alone".

"Much more still needs to be done to address the root causes of criminal exploitation - poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity are leaving these young people vulnerable to grooming by organised criminal gangs who ruthlessly exploit feelings of isolation and hopelessness," Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society said.

"While the government's recognition of the importance of early intervention is welcome, this is a huge problem that requires significant, long-term investment across the country if we are to stop criminal exploitation devastating young lives."

Writing in a blog, Paul Oginsky, chief executive of Personal Development Point, and former government youth policy adviser, said the strategy offers some positive solutions but it lacks understanding of the key issue to be addressed.

"To make a lasting impact the problem must be tackled at the root cause.

He said that many young people young people don't feel like they are part of society, instead getting a "sense of belonging" from being in a gang.

He said the government's National Citizen Service was established in order to offer young people a sense of belonging and questions need to be asked about its effectiveness.

"At a time when youth services have had serious cuts, NCS costs a serious amount of money," he said.

"If I was to measure it's success I would ask is it effective in helping all young people to gain a sense of belonging?

"Other government initiatives around sport, families and even employability should have the same question asked of them."

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