ADCS annual conference: Child protection and safeguarding key to tackling gangs

By Nina Jacobs

| 05 July 2019

Children's services leaders are calling on the government to deliver a coordinated and sustainably funded knife crime strategy, which puts child protection and safeguarding at the top of the agenda.

Doctors are reporting children involved in knife crime being admitted to hospital in school uniform, according to the ADCS.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) ADCS is responding to a sharp rise in knife related incidents which has left increasing numbers of young people injured or fatally stabbed.

A discussion paper, published at the ADCS's annual conference, sets out the need for a strategy which focuses on prevention and a long-term commitment to cultural change.

The ADCS said in a statement: "A reaffirmation from government of the importance of treating this first and foremost as a child protection and safeguarding concern would be helpful as would a reassertion of the role of the director of children's services as a systems leader."

The paper highlights links between inequality and high rates of violence which mean some children and young people are more at risk of being drawn into criminality.

"There is a need to both understand and address individual risk factors as well as address the social challenges that underpin criminal exploitation and serious violence in communities," the paper states.

These include poor mental health, addiction, poverty, unemployment and low quality housing, it adds.

The ADCS, which was critical of the government's serious violence strategy in its recent consultation response, urged it to recognise that "one-off, time limited funding" that councils had to bid for to tackle complex issues such as knife crime was unsustainable.

"Funding alone will not solve the problem, but it is an important part of the picture.

"There are no quick fixes.

"Ministers must also consider the impact of their policy decisions on the lives of children and their families," the paper states.

Speaking at the annual conference, ADCS president Rachel Dickinson, said that serious youth violence and knife crime are not limited to particular places, ethnicity or gender.

"Doctors tell us that children are being admitted to hospital still wearing their uniforms having suffered serious injury or attack on the way to, or from, school is becoming more common," said Dickinson.

"Children tell us they are carrying a knife because they are scared for their safety - it's clear something has to change and fast," she said.

Stricter laws, longer sentences and the expansion of police powers alone would not address the underlying social issues which led some children and communities being more vulnerable to risk or harm in the first place, she added.

Dickinson said lessons could be learnt from youth offending teams, the Troubled Families programme, initiatives such as Prevent and youth work as well as agency responses to child sexual exploitation.

Shs added: "Learning lessons from others about how they've tackled similar issues will be important but overall, much greater investment in our children and young people is needed if we are to make a difference.

"We must look much closer to home, at rising poverty, the loss of the youth service, the narrow curriculum, the increasing numbers of children being excluded from school and the changes needed in this country to stop the loss of more precious young lives on our streets."

The Home Office announced last month that anti-knife crime lessons would be delivered in schools before the start of the summer holidays.

It follows the £1.35m "#knifefree" advertising campaign rolled out in March featuring real stories of young people who decided not to carry a knife in an effort to inspire others to do the same.

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