Youth Violence

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 7:17 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons) 7:17 pm, 10th October 2018

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have had discussions about visiting trauma-informed schools, and we need a much bigger focus on trauma-informed approaches to understand both what they mean and the impact on young people who have experienced trauma.

Turning to some people who do understand that experience, the youth workers I have met completely understand the importance of building and maintaining relationships with the young people they work with. They know the positive impact that that can have on a young person’s life—especially a young person who may not have other adults in their life that they can rely on. They can be that positive role model. However, instead of investment in long-term sustainable relationships, we see piecemeal interventions—little pots of money invested in short programmes.

What can we do? Well, here are a few things that the Youth Violence Commission has recommended. We should develop a national youth policy framework, which would make the provision of youth work a statutory duty. We should ensure that any adult working with young people is professionally trained, especially in recognising signs of trauma. All youth workers should be trained in the same way as social workers. Policies and practices should be evidence informed and developed, and youth workers should be recognised, supported and respected in their field. We need to build young people’s resilience, ensuring that they can cope with and bounce back from adversity. We should provide positive role models and peer mentors to raise low aspirations and self-confidence.

The youth sector is currently an unregulated marketplace. While we want to see innovation, we also want to ensure that we hold youth work to nationally recognised standards. We need a much more consistent approach, with a focus on long-term results, not short-term interventions. Youth centres need to be open access and safe spaces for young people. It should go without saying, but key to youth work is listening to the voices of young people. It should not take a genius to recognise this, but the experiences and views of young people should be at the core of and inform the delivery of youth services. When the Youth Violence Commission conducted the safer lives survey, we asked young people, “If there was one thing you could change that you think would make young people safer, what would it be?” and the most popular response was the provision of more youth centres, sports clubs and other youth activities in their local areas.

I asked the Home Office to respond to this debate as well, because this is not a matter DCMS can tackle by itself, but I do have some questions I would like the Minister here to answer. Youth workers, teachers and police officers told the commission that the most dangerous time for knife attacks involving young people is between 3 pm and 6 pm—after school finishes and before parents finish work—but the Office for National Statistics, the Met police, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, city hall’s London Datastore, London ambulance dispatch data, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and the wonderful House of Commons Library were unable to get us data on the times at which knife attacks take place. When professionals in the field are consistently raising concerns about after-school attacks and grooming, why is this data not published? Will the Minister commit to obtaining the data and publishing it? Does she agree that after-school youth work and activities could help to keep young people safe?

I do not believe that we will ever reduce the level of violence without addressing ACEs. I worry that too many people in Parliament do not understand the impact of ACEs, although I am glad that the expertise of Norman Lamb, who unfortunately is not present, informed our recommendations. Will the Minister commit to reviewing the impact of ACEs and developing a plan to reduce them? Will the Government commit to reviewing the funding model for the sector to ensure it is more collaborative and less competitive, so that we can deliver a regulated youth service that any young person can access, as and when they need it?

Many young people have said to me that they are treated like they are part of the problem when they should be at the heart of the solution. What consultations have the Government conducted with young people to find out what kind of youth provision they want? Finally, I sent the Minister a copy of the Youth Violence Commission’s interim report, and I was glad to hear that she has read our recommendations in detail. Will she commit to or comment on the parts of the report that relate to reforming youth services and the sector?

If the Government are serious about adopting a public health strategy, it is the responsibility of every Department to understand and address the root causes of violence. Youth services play a role in tackling youth violence, as do schools, councils, social workers, hospitals, mental health services, the police and every other service that touches the life of a young person. A genuine public health approach to violence must be cross-departmental and cross-party, so I hope the Minister will raise my concerns with her Department and her counterparts across Government. I look forward to hearing her response to my questions.