“Public sector workers face legal duty to help tackle knife crime”

By Joanne Parkes

| 01 April 2019

Public sector workers could be required by law to raise concerns about children at risk of knife crime, under Home Office proposals.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has launched an eight-week consultation on the new multi-agency public health duty which would be placed on frontline staff including teachers, health workers and social workers.

The approach focuses on spotting warning signs that a young person could be in danger of becoming a victim or offending, such as worrying behaviour at home or school, or presenting at A&E with a suspicious injury.

Similar approaches have been used in Scotland and Wales, according to the Home Office, and are designed to ensure every part of the system works together to make "targeted interventions".

While there is broad sector support for multi-agency working, campaigners have cautioned that the responsibility for solving knife crime should not be that of frontline staff, with calls to focus more resources on dealing with the deeper causes.

The approach could also include organisations jointly funding early intervention services to improve their co-ordination.

It would be backed up by legislation to make sure professionals in health, education, police, social services, housing and the voluntary sector work together and are held accountable for preventing and tackling serious violence, said the department.

Javid said: "Violent crime is like a disease rotting our society and it's essential that all public bodies work together to treat the root causes.

"The public health, multi-agency approach has a proven track record and I'm confident that making it a legal duty will help stop this senseless violence and create long-term change.

"I'm committed to ending this scourge and will use all the tools at my disposal to do so."

Ministers are chairing meetings aimed at harnessing expert knowledge and boosting joint work within areas such as the justice system, business, and community groups.

More than 100 experts, including children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield, Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, charity leaders and chair of the Youth Justice Board Charlie Taylor, will explore ideas and kick-start a further programme of action.


The statutory duty would underpin the multi-agency approach in the government's Serious Violence Strategy, according to the Home Office.

Its launch comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is set to host a summit that will bring together attendees from areas including law enforcement, health, the voluntary sector and education.

There will also be contributions from young people with experience of living in communities impacted by serious violence.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, suggested that existing duties on schools were enough, but called for more resources.

"Schools already have strong safeguarding practices in place and staff will be alerted to any issues of concern," she said.

"The problem is what happens after issues of concern have been identified.

"Schools have lost pastoral support, special needs teachers and school counsellors."

Bousted said schools need funding and support to cope with pupils with additional needs to prevent help them falling through the net and into crime.

She added that "we need an accountability system that does not penalise schools who are working with children with complex needs".