KNIFE CRIME IN CROYDON – TWO: MP CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO DEVELOP TEN YEAR KNIFE CRIME STRATEGY
In the Commons debate Sarah Jones called on the Government to develop a coherent, 10-year knife crime strategy that co-ordinates work across departmental and party lines, puts preventive and acute resources on an equal footing, and recognises the interdependent nature of the public services in play.
The hugely successful teenage pregnancy strategy implemented by the previous Labour Government resulted in record lows of teenage pregnancy, with a 51 per cent drop over 16 years, she told MPs.
“Two things characterised that programme: the first was the length of time devoted to it—10 years; and the second was the recognition that no single Department could solve the problem alone.
“I will not set out tonight, nor could I, what a 10-year strategy should look like, but I know plenty of people who could help us to write one. “I want to highlight four things that must be part of the mix.
“The first is resources. “At many stages of a young person’s life, the help they need is to be shown that they have choices, that getting involved in violence is not the way, that they can have a future and that people care, but such interventions simply do not exist.
“Such interventions might be in schools, to teach people about positive relationships and emotional responses, or through child and adolescent mental health services. “They might take the form of a conversation with a policeman or a youth worker, or someone who can help them to think about their CV and their job options.
“Funding cuts across our public services—policing, youth work, education and health—have left a huge vacuum that social media and criminal gangs are filling, so we cannot duck the issue of resources or the lack of them. “It comes up at every turn when we talk to anyone with first-hand experience of the problem.
“My second point is that when I ask young people what has changed over the past couple of years, the conversation repeatedly returns to social media and the online world.
“Social media is undeniably fuelling an escalation in the cycle of violence among young people. “There is a growing trend of documented attacks and threats between rival groups, of violating others and of widespread bullying through tools such as Snapchat and Instagram.
“We should look not just at hosting sites such as YouTube, but at channels that share and spread this content, often distributing it to thousands of people without consideration of the messages behind it or the age of those viewing it.
“All this provides the catalyst for an ever more extreme and condensed revenge cycle of violence.
“The smallest violation can now be broadcast to hundreds if not thousands of people, and it can escalate to face-to-face confrontation in a matter of hours. “I urge the Minister to raise this issue with the Home Secretary. “The Government have taken a strong approach to extremist content online, but this type of content is in many ways equally alluring and damaging.
“My third point is that there are widespread concerns that schools are being overwhelmed by the scale of the issues they face and, as with the police, the spill-over issues of other services not being able to cope.
“Funding is absolutely key in that respect, but there are also increasing pressures to do academic attainment.
“We have to ask whether some schools are bypassing their broader social responsibilities in the drive to make good on their bold claims about pass rates. “There is particular concern about some academy chains.
“Every single agency that I have spoken to over the summer reports increasing levels of managed moves or expulsions, often for children with undiagnosed behaviour or mental health disorders, when the school simply cannot cope or does not want the child there.
“Moving children to other schools or pupil referral units is a worrying trend. One organisation described to me the straight line between pupil referral units (PRUs) and gangs.
“We should look hard at whether there is sufficient accountability, particularly in academies, before condemning a child to a PRU.
“Voluntary groups are an important bridge to young people, but they report increased difficulties in accessing schools.
“Again, academies seem particular culprits, preferring internal processes and systems to the learned experience and cultural competence that many voluntary sector organisations offer.” (Source: TheyWorkForYou website. Adjournment debate on knife crime, House of Commons September 6th)