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The Youth Violence Commission’s Report of July 2020

July 2020

The Youth Violence Commission was established with the recognition that tackling youth violence is the responsibility of all society. The commissioners are therefore comprised of MPs from across different political parties, in order to seek a genuine cross party consensus on solutions to address youth violence. The commissioners will be working alongside the commission’s academic and strategic partners to seek evidence based policy solutions, with the aim of ultimately getting each political party to sign up to the final report’s recommendations before the next General Election.

The Commission is supported by a joint collaboration of academics from The Open University and Warwick Policy Lab of Warwick in London, which is part of the University of Warwick. Our academic partners have conducted a range of primary research to support the Commission’s work. This has included developing and conducting a national survey of young people to find out about their experiences and views of violence, supporting a series of expert evidence sessions in Portcullis House, and gathering evidence from meetings with senior personnel in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit. In addition to gathering data through primary research, our academics have reviewed the most relevant and recent studies on the subject of serious youth violence, and authored our interim and final reports that present the Commission’s key findings and policy recommendations.

The Youth Violence Commission published its detailed final report into Youth Violence in July 2020.  Its executive Summary contains these words.  The report itself is essential reading for anyone who wishes to engage in supporting young people, and understanding some of the social causes behind crimes of violence to which any of us can be victims. The Youth Violence Commission is chaired by MP Vicky Foxcroft and supported by a cross-party group of MPs. Its final report is the result of a joint collaboration between academics from the University of Warwick and The Open University. The Secretariat for the Commission is UK Youth. Many other groups and individuals have supported the Commission, details of whom can be found in Appendix A and B to the full report. 

Some key passages:

Serious violence has a devastating impact on the lives of countless young people across the UK, leaving deep and enduring scars on the families, friends and communities affected. While the magnitude of the effort needed to protect young people from serious violence cannot be underestimated, we believe there is cause for cautious optimism. In recent years, among the vast majority of the individuals and groups with whom the Youth Violence Commission (YVC) has had the privilege of engaging, there has been nothing short of a sea-change in the way serious violence is being understood and talked about.” 

Many readers will be all too familiar with the narrative that has increasingly dominated discussions among those working to reduce serious violence: the ‘public health approach’. For the YVC, these are not empty words. This shift in understanding opens up huge potential for fundamental change in the way we understand and respond to serious violence. 

The evidence provided to the Commission over the last three years has often forced us to switch our focus, from the violence perpetrated by young people, to the shocking levels of serious violence and mistreatment inflicted on these same young people throughout their lives. 

Far too many young people have seen their own friends stabbed to death. Others have had to endure the crushing experience of seeing their own mothers being brutally and repeatedly attacked in their homes or have been the victims of domestic violence themselves. In addition, many grow up surrounded by stark levels of deprivation, insecurity and adverse early-life experiences that have left them suffering from severe trauma, which too often goes overlooked and unaddressed. 

Their recommendations are as follows: 

Key Recommendations 

The Commission welcomes the Government’s decision to support and invest in regional Violence Reduction Units (VRUs). Our utmost concern is that the recently established VRUs are given the best possible opportunity to succeed in bringing together and implementing genuine, holistic, public health approaches to reducing serious violence. To this end, the Commission’s central recommendations are as follows: 

Violence Reduction Units 

  1. 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.
  2. 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; 
    iii)  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
  3. 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 YVC would highlight the importance of these evaluations adopting a long-term lens on what ‘success’ ought to look like from the perspective of the VRUs. It is vital that the evaluations consider, for example, any changes facilitated by the VRUs in relation to local level partnership working that may prove pivotal in the long-term but may not generate immediate reductions in levels of serious violence. 

    A full list of the YVC’s recommendations across a broad range of policy areas can be found in Part 3. 

    As communication between the regional VRUs and Central Government should be a two-way dialogue, based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, we suggest that in first instance the collective network of VRUs should support and promote the following recommendations for reducing serious violence between young people, which will require action at a national policy level: 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 

  7. 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 programs that help to prepare parents for parenthood and provide support in the early years of parenting
  8. 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... 

We hope that the YVC’s findings and recommendations will provide welcome support to each of the regional VRUs in their task of driving forward genuine public health approaches to reducing serious violence. While the size of this task should not be underestimated, it is one we are confident can be met, provided that the political will exists to drive forward the Commission’s recommendations. 

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Serious Youth Violence Sixteenth Report of Session 31 July 2019 

(HC106) Government Response to House of Commons Home Affairs Committee: Serious Youth Violence – Sixteenth Report of Session 2017-2019 

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