The rise in serious youth violence is a social emergency, and that young people have been failed in the most devastating way, losing their lives as a result say MP’s.
The Home Affairs Select Committee report published today says that the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy is a completely inadequate response to the wave of violence blighting our communities.
The Committee is calling for Stronger focus, leadership and direction from the Government and Prime Minister, and an accountable leader in every local area reporting to the Prime Minister on action to bring serious violence down.
They recommend Major investment in local youth services and prevention work – including a new ‘Youth Service Guarantee’ to help prevent young people becoming caught up in violence and say that Urgent action to tackle county lines, including stronger local safeguarding plans is required.
MP’s say that there needs to be Substantial additional resources for policing.
All schools in areas with above average risk of youth violence should have dedicated police officers while there should be action to cut school exclusions and end the part-time timetables in alternative education provision.
Police-recorded homicides have increased by over a third in the last five years, and knife offences have risen by over 70%.
The number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries also rose by a third between 2013-14 and 2017-18. A growing number of young males, in particular, are being murdered on Britain’s streets.
The Committee’s inquiry found that the Government’s rhetoric on a ‘public health’ approach to violence is not reflected in the reality on the ground, and that there is a serious mismatch between the Government’s diagnosis of the problem and its proposed solutions.
The highly critical report states that the current epidemic of youth violence has been exacerbated by a perfect storm emerging from cuts to youth services, heavily reduced police budgets, a growing number of children being excluded from school and taken into care, and a failure of statutory agencies to keep young people safe from exploitation and violence.
It finds that the Government’s Strategy lacks leadership and focus, and the rise in serious youth violence must be addressed through much more concerted Government action at a national and local level.
The Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, commented:
“Teenagers are dying on our streets, and yet our inquiry has found that the Government’s response to the rise in serious youth violence is completely inadequate. They just haven’t risen to the scale of the problem.
The rhetoric about a public health approach is right, but too often that’s all it is – rhetoric. There are no clear targets or milestones, and no mechanisms to drive progress. To publish a weak strategy and convene a few roundtable discussions just isn’t enough when faced with youth violence on this scale. The Home Office has shamefully taken a hands-off approach to this crisis, but it is a national emergency and must be treated like one. They need to get a grip.
Serious violence has got worse after a perfect storm of youth service cuts, police cuts, more children being excluded from school and a failure of statutory agencies to keep them safe. The Government has a responsibility to deal with this crisis urgently.
Far more needs to be done to intervene early in young people’s lives, making sure they have safe places to go to and trusted adults to help them and protect them from harm. So much of this support has been stripped away, leaving children vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups.
The Home Office’s youth intervention projects are far too small scale and fragmented compared to the services that have been lost. That is why we are calling for comprehensive, statutory youth services, backed by ring-fenced Government funding to create a new national ‘Youth Service Guarantee’
The Committee has long called for more investment in policing and we look forward to seeing the details of the Government’s latest plans, but this must include dedicated school officers in higher risk areas.
We heard from families whose lives have been devastated by serious violence. Young lives can and must be saved, but the Government and Prime Minister must make it a priority to reduce serious youth violence and get a grip on this crisis immediately”.