16 July 2020
On 13th July 2020, the Youth Violence Commission published its final report into the root causes of serious violence affecting young people and long-term solutions to this complex problem.
The report highlights the drivers of lack of investment in children’s early years, exclusion from education, lack of investment in youth services, cuts to policing, the lack of good and well-paid employment, unsafe and unaffordable housing, child poverty and inequality.
London Youth has engaged extensively with the commission over the last several years and promoted its important work to our members, including through having Vicky Foxcroft MP to speak at our Serious Youth Violence Network. We were very proud to have the commission’s final report quote a piece of our research, Young People’s Capital of the World?.
London Youth supports a public health approach to reducing violence and has been heavily involved with London’s Violence Reduction Unit. As well as holding a seat on the unit’s Partnership Reference Group, we are working with the VRU and other partners to deliver Rise Up, a youth practitioner leadership programme to make positive change in communities affected by violence.
Insights for the youth sector
The report highlights the role of youth services in reducing violence affecting young people (p. 28-30) and a number of youth sector- specific recommendations (p. 66).
The Commission found serious problems with the provision of youth services. An extraordinary number of third sector organisations are being forced to compete for small pots of short-term project funding, leading to the closure of many organisations and a toxic climate of inadequate and ineffective services. The sector requires wholesale change that will facilitate the development of long-term strategies, sufficient and stable funding arrangements, and high-quality services on which young people can rely.”
Recommendations for the youth sector
35. High quality youth services can transform the lives of young people by helping them to build their emotional and social skills, particularly around confidence, critical thinking, resilience and employability. To do so, however, these services require substantial and long-term funding commitments that recognise the cost-benefit of investing in early intervention and preventative youth services. Central Government should provide Local Authorities with statutory funding and a clear statutory duty for providing youth services, the levels of which should be determined by the number of young people living in each Local Authority area. Civil society organisations should be central to designing, delivering and leading youth services, working in partnership with Local Authorities and other key stakeholders.
36. Adult professionals and practitioners involved in the commissioning, design and delivery of youth services should put in place appropriate structures to ensure that the voices of young people and those that support them are at the heart of any decision-making that affects them.
37. A collaboration of funders – including, but not limited to, Central, Regional and Local Governments, Arm’s Length Bodies, Trusts, Foundations, Corporates and VRUs – should provide enhanced investment in early intervention and open access youth services as well as targeted ‘violence-reduction’ youth work. A clear demarcation should be drawn between generic youth services and targeted violence reduction interventions, the latter of which must be delivered by youth organisations whose workers have received specialist training.
38. Funders should seek to ensure appropriate training and support is available to all youth workers. This should include funding for the provision of mental health training for frontline professionals including but not limited to youth workers, focusing in particular on trauma-informed approaches as well as support services for youth workers who may be experiencing trauma themselves.
39. Funders should invest in quality assurance around youth services, appropriate to the size of the organisation, to secure minimum standards and consistency of provision. This will help to ensure young people have access to safe spaces and high quality youth work, and will foster a culture of continuous improvement.
40. Central Government investment should provide national and local infrastructure support to enable coordinated and collaborative working and sustainability of youth services to allow grassroots organisations to focus on frontline delivery. This should include the establishment of a joined-up youth offer (voluntary and statutory) at a local and national level to coordinate opportunities that are available to young people. This should be underpinned by the establishment of the new Local Youth Partnerships across the country, acknowledging the important role civil society organisations have in providing this service.
41. Youth organisations and other stakeholders should avoid outwardly framing themselves as being involved in ‘violence reduction’. Wherever possible, youth organisations should take an asset-based approach to working with young people, explicitly framing their work around the provision of opportunity, skills and inclusion.
The report includes a comprehensive list of recommendations (p. 60-66), of which the key ones can be found below:
- VRUs must receive enhanced funding immediately, accompanied by funding projections for a minimum of ten years. This will enable each unit to plan how best to deploy its resources strategically, while also ensuring those working within these units have the confidence to promote long-term, evidence-informed policies and initiatives.
- The VRUs should have a threefold purpose:
- to lead on the development, implementation and commissioning of local level initiatives to reduce violence, helping to rationalise the many disparate funding streams available, while bringing together and coordinating relevant stakeholders;
- to feed the learning generated by each VRU’s local level work into relevant evidence bases, such as the ‘what works’ initiative currently being led by the Youth Endowment Fund;
- as a combined VRU network, to identify and promote the national level policy changes that are beyond each regional VRU’s scope and control, but are nevertheless crucial to securing reductions in serious violence.
- In their capacity as local level coordinators of holistic public health approaches to reducing serious violence, VRUs should actively seek to engage all relevant stakeholders to feed into their short-term priorities and long-term planning. In addition, VRUs should provide regular feedback mechanisms to these same stakeholders to explain how their input has informed the VRU’s work and priorities.
- The planned increase in police recruitment should be used to underpin significant reinvestment in local neighbourhood policing. The YVC recognises the fundamental importance of effective community policing in the development of long-term, problem-solving approaches to reducing serious youth violence. It is the basis on which policing capacity, and public trust and confidence in policing, is built and sustained.
- Central Government should provide significant and immediate increased funding to enable schools to put in place the enhanced support necessary to avoid off-rolling and pursue an aspiration of zero exclusions. The Commission accepts that exclusion will be the only feasible option in some cases. Given the numerous causal links between excluding and off-rolling
pupils and the likelihood of these same young people being involved in serious violence, however, it is imperative that schools are provided with sufficient investment to help keep
pupils in mainstream education.
- High quality youth services can transform the lives of young people. Central Government should provide Local Authorities with statutory funding and a clear statutory duty for providing youth services, the levels of which should be determined by the number of young people living in each Local Authority area. Civil society organisations should be central to designing, delivering and leading youth services, working in partnership with Local Authorities and other key stakeholders.
- A collaboration of funders – including, but not limited to, Central, Regional and Local Governments, Arm’s Length Bodies, Trusts, Foundations and Corporates – should invest in programmes that help to prepare parents for parenthood and provide support in the early years of parenting.
- Central Government should commit to providing enhanced funding to support the full range of the Commission’s recommendations that cross multiple policy areas. While the social case for such investment is compelling, it is also economically prudent. Current levels of serious violence cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds every year – even minor reductions in these levels of violence will generate significant cost savings.