Youth violence response needs local co-ordination

Derren Hayes
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The government is to invest £11m to develop new youth violence prevention projects as part of its £40m, two-year Serious Violence Strategy.

While funding for new initiatives is welcome, there are plenty of established projects the strategy should build on.

Redthread's Youth Violence Intervention Programme engages young knife victims in the first few hours of receiving treatment in hospital. The Divert project, run by the Metropolitan Police and Milestone Foundation, has been found to help young offenders that entered police custody go on to get jobs or an apprenticeship.

Both schemes engage young people at a "teachable moment" - when most likely to consider their behaviour.

While it is important to work with those already involved in violent crime, experts say greater effort and resources must be put into working with children before they get to that point (see analysis).

A recent Early Intervention Foundation study highlighted the benefits of running education programmes about the dangers of gangs with primary school pupils, because evidence is emerging of younger children getting drawn into violent crime.

Youth justice charity Growing Against Violence, which runs school-based education programmes alongside youth workers, is seeing young children becoming desensitised to gang behaviours, making them more at risk from exploitation.

These are isolated programmes, when what is needed is something more co-ordinated.

The Serious Violence Strategy recognises that multiple factors influence knife crime and that tackling the causes of it requires the contribution of a range of agencies. This was the conclusion Strathclyde Police came to in 2005 when it embarked on a "public health approach" to tackling violent crime in Glasgow. It shifted thinking that violence reduction was solely a police-related activity, to one that required tangible action from health, education, youth work and employment services. It identified those involved and gave them a way out of a violent life, and introduced a city-wide schools programme.

To lead the work, Strathclyde Police established the Violence Reduction Unit. England should follow this approach by requiring local areas to establish city or regional bodies to co-ordinate multi-agency efforts to tackle violence. Local safeguarding children boards could play a crucial role in ensuring such co-ordinating bodies prioritise youth violence.

Only a multi-agency and preventative approach will reverse rising youth violence.

Derren Hayes is editor of Children & Young People Now

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