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Wed, 06 Jul 22 11:59

New paper on serious youth violence and knife crime

New ADCS discussion paper on serious youth violence and knife crime

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Thursday 4 July, publishes a new discussion paper on serious youth violence and knife crime, in order to open a system wide discussion about what an integrated, whole system response to the risks and harms facing a small but worrying number of children, young people and young adults should look like.

Whilst the vast majority of children and young people are not engaged in serious violence or knife crime, there has been a recent rise in the numbers of children and young people treated for assault with a knife or fatally stabbed on our streets. This isn’t always tied to organised gangs and illegal activity, but in all cases children must be viewed as children first rather than being written off as ‘troublemakers’ or ‘criminals’. A reaffirmation from government of the importance of treating this first and foremost as a child protection and safeguarding concern would be helpful as would a reassertion of the role of the director of children’s services as a systems leader.

Some children and young people can be more at risk of being drawn into criminality, multiple studies demonstrate a clear link between inequality and high rates of violence for example. There is a need to both understand and address individual risk factors as well as address the social challenges that underpin criminal exploitation and serious violence in our communities, from poor mental health, addiction, poverty, unemployment and poor-quality housing. Funding alone will not solve the problem, but it is an important part of the picture. The government must recognise one off, time limited funding that local authorities and others must bid for to tackle complex issues like knife crime is unsustainable. There are no quick fixes. The paper highlights the need for a clear, coordinated
and compassionate strategy focused on prevention, backed by long term sustainable funding that we can all get behind. Ministers must also consider the impact of their policy decisions on the lives of children and their families. This will require a long term commitment to cultural change and a strategy beyond a single parliamentary term, and of course the political will.

Rachel Dickinson, ADCS President, said:

“Serious youth violence and knife crime isn’t limited to a particular place, ethnicity or gender. These incidents have a devastating impact on victims, their families, the communities where they live, and beyond. Doctors tell us that children are being admitted to hospital still wearing their uniforms having suffered serious injury or attack on the way to, or from, school is becoming more common, children tell us they are carrying a knife because they are scared for their safety - it’s clear something has to change and fast.

“It’s not enough to deal with the symptoms of this senseless violence by patching young people up and sending them home without dealing with the underlying, and often interrelated, causes that lead to it in the first place. Moreover, stricter laws longer sentences and the expansion of police powers alone will do nothing to address the underlying social issues which lead to some children and
communities being more vulnerable to risk or harm in the first place.“There is plenty of learning for us all to harness, from youth offending teams, from the Troubled Families Programme, from sustained efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies, from Prevent, from youth work and our responses to child sexual exploitation in recent years. Learning lessons from others about how they’ve tackled similar issues will be important but overall, much greater investment in our children and young people is needed if we are to make a difference. We must look much closer to home, at rising poverty, the loss of the youth services, the narrow curriculum, the increasing numbers of children being excluded from school and the changes needed in this country to stop the loss of more precious young lives on our streets. The government must lead this endeavour from the front as a matter of urgency.”

The full discussion paper can be found on


The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Ltd is the professional leadership association for Directors of Children’s Services and their senior management teams in England.

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