'Boost youth employment initiatives' to tackle knife crime, charities claim

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 18 March 2019

The government must target investment towards employment-focused youth services to address crime at its roots, sector leaders have urged.

Charities say employers are investing to support young people into employment through apprenticeships, work placements and other opportunities. Picture: goodluz/Shutterstock.com

While policing is an important tool, say the group of charities, it is targeted youth initiatives, particularly those that steer young people into work, that are "critical" to addressing the underlying issues.

The three charities, which between them specialise in work placements for young people as well as mental health and resilience, made the calls in reaction to news of an extra £100m for policing knife crime.

Movement to Work, IHEART and London Youth, say that there are thousands of vacancies and employers investing to support young people into employment through apprenticeships, work placements and other opportunities.

However, the charities claim that employers can only make a difference if young people believe that they can access these opportunities and mentors are able to show them the pathway to jobs.

This national challenge needs a joined-up local response, along with more funding for youth outreach and mentoring.

James Ashall, chief executive at Movement to Work, said: "As a coalition of employers we can support people into employment once they are known to us, but it's organisations like London Youth who are part of local communities that can support young people to find their way to Movement to Work and employers. Positive mentorship is critical and we must address this.

"It is not a problem that can be solved in isolation by individuals. It needs society to come together to provide the right pathways, mentors and opportunities to find support.

"Employers now working with Movement to Work have found that these young people are loyal, develop badly needed skills and that current workforces enjoy mentoring them.

"Meaningful employment is key to positive ambition. If young people see a bright future and potential careers, with positive guidance, we will all benefit, and looking at things starkly, fewer lives will be lost."

More than half the number of young people who completed work placements with Movement to Work went on to continue education or find employment, added Ashall.

London Youth chief executive Rosemary Watt-Wyness said young people can be inspired by the trusting relationships they build with youth workers, who can steer them towards opportunity.

"Our employability work has proven the positive outcomes young people achieve when employers and youth organisations work hand in hand," said Watt-Wyness.

London Youth claims that between 2011 and 2018, 81 youth clubs have closed across the capital, leading to 800 fewer youth workers.

It has produced a research document Hidden in Plain Sight, discussing the wider issue.

Charity Movement To Work supports young people into employment

According to official figures, youth employment for the last quarter was up on previous months, but lower than the previous year.

The inactivity rate for young people is 37.6 per cent - around three quarters of young people who are economically inactive are in full-time education.

Last week, Ofsted said schools needed more support to deal with knife crime, recommending police, local authorities and policymakers join together to address inconsistencies in the ways the problem is tackled within education.

And in his spring statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the extra policing funds would be ringfenced to pay for additional overtime targeted specifically on knife crime and for new violent crime reduction units.

So far this year 10 teenagers have been killed in knife attacks across England, including five in London.

A government spokesperson said: "Youth unemployment has almost halved since 2010, and the proportion of 16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training has remained steady following last year's all-time low in England.

"But there is more to do which is why we have announced the roll out of a jobcentre mentoring programme to support young people into work, as well as new investment in Violence Reduction Units bringing together health, education, social services and others to prevent knife crime."

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