Labour urges action on youth knife crime

Tristan Donovan
Monday, December 4, 2017

Labour has called on the government to deploy youth workers in hospitals to counter the growing number of young people dying from knife crime.

In a debate in parliament last week Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, said action is needed as the number of under-20s killed by knives is nearing a 10-year high.

So far this year 35 children and young people in England and Wales have died from knife crime. This makes 2017 the worst year for knife deaths of under-20s since 2008 when 42 young people died after being stabbed.
"The Prime Minister promised action five months ago, but she has failed to deliver," said Jones, who founded and chairs the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime.

"There was nothing in the budget for policing and nothing meaningful to tackle the causes as well as the crime. It is clear that we need intervention now and not just from the Home Office."

She said the Youth Violence Intervention Programme, which employs youth workers based in major trauma centres, has been effective at helping 11- to 25-year-old victims escape the cycle of youth violence and said extending this nationwide would cost £6m a year.

The programme, which is run by the youth work charity Redthread, began in London's King's College Hospital in 2004 and now operates in all four of the capital's major trauma centres. Redthread is due to expand the programme to Birmingham and Nottingham in the new year.

Responding to Jones's call, cabinet office secretary Damian Green said the government was "tougher than ever" on knife crime but made no comment on whether the government would support a further expansion of the Youth Violence Intervention Programme.

"We have made the punishment for repeat offenders stronger, and we have banned cautions for the most serious offences," he said.

"There is now a very clear message: if you carry knives in public, you are more likely than ever to go to prison. The latest figures show that 42 per cent of adult offenders were given an immediate custodial sentence - the highest rate in nearly a decade - so I hope that she can be reassured that this government are actually being tougher on knife crime than any previous government."

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