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Crime and Violence: Young People

Volume 699: debated on Monday 12 July 2021

What steps her Department is taking to prevent young people from becoming involved in crime and violence. (902507)

What steps her Department is taking to help stop young people from becoming involved in crime and violence. (902520)

What steps her Department is taking to help stop young people from becoming involved in crime and violence. (902521)

From 2019 to 2022, this Government will have provided more than £242 million across the 18 areas that account for the majority of knife crime and other serious violence incidents. This money is funding violence reduction units, which will draw together all key partners to address the root causes of violence as well as targeted police action to deter and disrupt knife crime. The House has recently approved the serious violence duty in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and we are investing more than £200 million over the next decade in the youth endowment fund to help interventions to divert young people away from serious violence.

In Nottinghamshire, our violence reduction unit has played a key role in strategic planning and supporting practical local work to protect our young people from harm. Can the Minister provide any reassurance that VRUs will continue to form part of our local response to serious youth violence, supported by Home Office funding?

This Government take extremely seriously the harm that serious violence causes all people across society, but particularly young people who are dragged into gangs by gang leaders. That is why, through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we have introduced, as I said, the serious violence duty. We are also increasing sentences for the most violent offenders. VRUs remain a key part of our work to tackle serious violence, as demonstrated by our £2.6 million invested in Nottingham alone.

Youth clubs and groups teach young people valuable skills and help to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. Will the Minister join me in praising the neighbourhood policing teams in Clwyd South, who work in partnership with youth services and local councils, including in the Ceiriog valley, where together they are involving more young people in the local rugby club and hiring a mobile BMX course?

I am very pleased to join my hon. Friend in praising his local police, but also the local charities and other services that are working together to help young people to escape a life of crime. Sport can have many benefits. With our £200 million youth endowment fund, over the next 10 years, we will see the benefits of sport programmes, but also of other types of intervention to help to remove young people from the clutches of gang leaders. I am delighted also that my hon. Friend’s police force has received almost 100 new police officers as part of this Government’s commitment to tackling violent crime and making our streets safer with 20,000 new officers.

Does the Minister agree that one way to stop young people from becoming involved in crime is to give them more opportunity to be active? Would she support the efforts of people such as Sean Ivey, who, despite suffering personal attacks, including having his home, car and caravan torched, is now leading efforts to support his community in attacking antisocial behaviour? Will she look at how we can support his efforts through targeted funding for distressed communities, and can I encourage her to come to Wingate in Sedgefield to see for herself the efforts being made?

I join my hon. Friend in commending and thanking Mr Ivey for all his efforts in his constituency to support others in Sedgefield and to tackle antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour, particularly of the sort that my hon. Friend has described, is absolutely unacceptable. Next week, we have a week of awareness raising on the perils of antisocial behaviour and the tools available to our councils, the police and, indeed, to us as Members of Parliament to tackle antisocial behaviour in our communities. As a Government, we have committed an additional £7.3 million in funding, and almost 90 new officers have been recruited to help to keep County Durham’s streets safe. I am very pleased to receive my hon. Friend’s invitation, and I will of course accept.

I had the pleasure of visiting Calderdale’s early action team on Friday, where West Yorkshire police and partner agencies are delivering some exemplary work, keeping children and young people safe from crime and exploitation. However, for all the positive work they do, chronic backlogs in the criminal justice system mean that it is taking anywhere up to 18 months for cases to be heard, delaying restorative justice for often young victims. Only with a swift and effective criminal justice system will these agencies be able to do their best work in protecting young people from criminality, so what is the Government’s plan to deliver a dynamic and effective youth justice system that is fit for purpose?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and I know her own commitment in this area. The Government are taking a whole system approach to how we tackle serious violence. The journey of a young person who is involved in serious violence may start in seemingly tiny steps. It may be the offer of a new pair of trainers or the offer of a meal. That is how gang leaders ensnare young people into their gangs to go around the country selling drugs and so on. As part of the Government’s work, we are investing not only in very tough enforcement action, but in early intervention programmes. The youth endowment fund has just launched its toolkit, which will help local commissioners to discover which programmes work and have the best impact on early intervention. I commend that to the hon. Lady. I very much look forward to working with her and her local police force in helping to prevent serious violence among young people.