The Government are deeply concerned about the recent rise in serious violence, particularly knife crime, which is robbing too many children and young people of their futures. This is a challenge that affects all of society, and agencies must come together in a co-ordinated, wide-reaching and long-term effort.
In order to ensure the strongest possible response, the Prime Minister hosted a serious youth violence summit at 10 Downing Street, with the support of the Home Secretary, from 1 to 4 April. The central aim of the summit was to ensure a shared understanding and commitment to a multiagency, “public health” approach to tackling knife crime and serious violence more generally.
This approach involves partners across different sectors—such as education, health, social services, offender management services, housing, youth and victim services, working closely with community and faith leaders, and the voluntary and charitable sectors—taking joint action to address the underlying risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will become a victim or a perpetrator of violence.
The Prime Minister opened the summit by chairing a roundtable meeting with a range of experts, representatives and practitioners from key sectors, community leaders, young people, and cross-party politicians. Alongside the Prime Minister, both I and other senior Ministers discussed with these experts what more can be done to tackle recent rises in serious violence. This was followed by a series of themed sessions chaired by Secretaries of State and Ministers during the week, aimed at harnessing expert knowledge and creating the conditions to boost joint working across sectors and organisations. I will place a full list of the attendees—of whom there were well over 100 over the course of the week—in the Libraries of both Houses.
The full programme of thematic sessions, which took place over the course of the summit, included:
Best practice in law enforcement, chaired by the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service;
The role of education, chaired by the Secretary of State for Education;
Investing in communities, chaired by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government;
Positive activities for young people, chaired by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport;
Creating opportunities for young people, chaired by the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability;
The role of the health sector, chaired by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care;
Effectiveness of the criminal justice system, chaired by the Secretary of State for Justice.
The following coincided with this summit:
I announced that Impetus, in partnership with the Early Intervention Foundation and Social Investment Business, will run the new youth endowment fund, which will support interventions with children and young people at risk of involvement in crime and violence, based on £200 million of new Government funding.
The Government announced £100 million additional funding in 2019-20 to tackle serious violence, including £80 million of new funding from the Treasury. This will allow police to swiftly crackdown on knife crime on the areas of the country most affected by knife crime and will also allow for investment in violence reduction units.
That I will be making it simpler for the police in the seven forces particularly affected by violent crime, to use section 60 (area-wide) stop and search powers where they reasonably believe that an incident involving serious violence may occur. This pilot will be for up to a year, with a review after six months—after which we will make decisions on next steps. The College of Policing will also work alongside forces to create new guidelines on how best the police can engage with communities on the use of stop and search.
I launched a public consultation on a new legal duty to ensure that public bodies work together to protect young people at risk of becoming involved in knife crime. This would underpin the multiagency approach already being driven by the serious violence strategy, which stresses the importance of early intervention to tackle the root causes of violent crime. Similar approaches have been used in Scotland and Wales, and are designed to ensure that every part of the system is supporting young people with targeted interventions before they commit violence or are groomed by gangs.
These announcements build on the significant progress we have made in delivering the commitments set out in the serious violence strategy published in April 2018. These include: the early intervention youth fund of £22 million, through which the Home Office is already supporting 29 projects in England and Wales; the new national county lines co-ordination centre; an antiknife crime community fund which provided £1.5 million in 2018-19 to support 68 local projects to tackle knife crime; and a national knife crime media campaign—#knifefree—to raise young people’s awareness of the consequences of knife crime; and the establishment of the serious violence taskforce, which I chair and which is attended by Members of Parliament, Ministers, senior police officers, representatives of agencies in the public and voluntary sectors and others, to drive action across a number of fronts.
The summit has reinforced my view, shared across Government, that there is not one single solution to rising levels of serious violence, and that co-ordinated action is needed across a number of fronts. Attendees agreed on the need to understand the causes and consequences of serious violence, focused on prevention and early intervention, and informed by evidence and rigorous evaluation of interventions. To do this, we must bring together information, data and intelligence and encourage organisations and individuals to work in concert rather than in isolation, focusing on those identified as being most vulnerable to involvement in serious violent crime. Attendees identified many examples of good practice taking place in local areas and communities, and there was consensus on the importance of a shared approach to preventing and tackling serious violence.
In particular, the summit has already enabled the following outcomes:
The creation of a new ministerial taskforce, chaired by the Prime Minister, to drive cross-Government action. This will be supported by a new, dedicated, serious violence team in the Cabinet Office to support cross-departmental co-ordination.
There is commitment to better data collection and sharing of appropriate data between the healthcare sector and other key organisations in order to protect children, and to make it easier for health professionals to play an enhanced role in reducing violence. This will be accompanied by the rollout of mental health support teams based in and around schools and education settings, to help vulnerable children within their community, some of which will be in areas most affected by knife crime. The teams will be available to support children directly or indirectly affected by knife crime as part of the school or college response.
There is an expansion of the partnership with the Premier League to increase one of its flagship community programmes, Premier League Kicks, which uses football to inspire young people to develop their potential and build stronger, safer communities. Sport England, which invests more than £10 million in projects that use sport to support crime reduction, has also pledged to increase investment in sport and physical activity for children in hot spot areas.
There is an extension of the support provided by the National Homicide Service to witnesses, as part of a raft of new measures, which will focus on supporting victims and witnesses of violent crime and directing youth offenders away from further violence. These include: extending emotional, practical, trauma and counselling support beyond victims to now include those who witness murder or manslaughter in London; specialist training for staff at youth offender institutions to spot signs of past abuse, exploitation or serious violence experienced by the youths in custody and help direct them to support services; and reviewing the victims’ code, which sets out what services victims are entitled to receive, to make it clearer what support witnesses of serious violent crime can access.
These deliverables represent the first step of an increased programme of work across Government—and beyond—to tackle serious youth violence. Once the ministerial taskforce has been established, it will agree a plan of action and then oversee its implementation going forward. We will continue to keep Parliament updated. The summit demonstrates the commitment from the Prime Minister, myself and Ministers across Government, setting a clear direction and galvanising action to tackle serious violence. Working together, this new approach will ensure we meet the scourge of youth violence head on, so that more families are spared the unimaginable suffering that has already been endured by so many.