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Serious violence ’emergency’

Serious violence – driven by a demand among drug users for a service described as “24-hour ‘dial a dealer'” – is described as a social emergency by the Home Affairs Committee of MPs.

The MPs’ report points to what it calls 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. The committee complains that ‘county lines’ exploitation is blighting communities and destroying young lives. Children have been let down by safeguarding systems that are far too narrowly focused on risks inside the family home, as well as an ongoing failure of agencies to work effectively together to build a package of support around young people. These systems and processes have failed badly to keep up with county lines groups.

The senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, said: “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 round-table 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.”

The report recommends investing in neighbourhood policing and ensuring that, by the beginning of April 2020, all schools in areas with an above-average risk of serious youth violence have a dedicated school police officer. For the report in full visit

Picture by Mark Rowe; view from BT Tower, London.


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