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Halting knife crime is a multi-agency endeavour

Barely a day goes by without hearing about another senseless act of violence or loss of young life due to knife crime. Knife crime isn’t limited to a particular place, ethnicity or gender. It can result in life-changing injuries – or be fatal. These incidents have a devastating impact on victims, their families and the communities where they live, and beyond.

I am pleased the Prime Minister has acknowledged that we cannot “arrest” our way out of this situation. Our members are clear, this must be treated as a safeguarding concern – many of the young people caught up in criminal activities are being exploited themselves. Government has made some funding available for the police and projects aimed at reducing youth violence, but much greater investment in our children and young people is needed if we are to make a difference. A consultation which proposes a duty on specific organisations is currently underway, but is this the right solution? It is likely to exacerbate the pressures already facing frontline professionals, including social workers, and it certainly won’t address the reasons why a young person might carry or use a knife in the first place.

Life is getting harder for growing numbers of young people and their families due to the unintended impact of austerity and a series of welfare reforms. Local authorities have worked hard to manage reducing budgets against the tide of increasing need but this has been at the expense of non-statutory parts of the system and other community services. Hundreds of youth centres have closed reducing the availability of positive activities. Add to this staggering levels of child poverty and stubbornly high numbers of young people not in education, employment or training leaving young people with nowhere to go, making them more susceptible to exploitation.

Tackling knife crime is a multi-agency endeavour; local authorities, the police, schools and health services as well as the voluntary sector and the public, have a vital role to play in keeping young people safe. Treating serious youth violence as a public health issue, by which I mean tackling its causes as well as its consequences, makes absolute sense. Learning lessons from others about how they’ve tackled similar issues will be important but we must also look closer to home, at the changes needed in our own country to ensure it works for all children.

The task may not be straightforward, but every young life is precious and must be protected.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS President 2019/20.

This article first appeared in the MJ on 16 April 2019 |

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