I meet regularly with a whole variety of faith groups on a number of different issues, not just as a Minister, but, of course, in my own constituency. I completely recognise and value the work that faith groups do, especially when they work in partnership with many other different organisations.
Let me talk a bit more about the funding that is available. At present, DCMS, together with the Big Lottery Fund, is investing £40 million in the Youth Investment Fund to directly support community youth provision across England, including in London and the west midlands, both of which are areas of concern. There is also a further £40 million investment going into the #iwill fund, which supports young people to take action on the issues that they care about. One of the key points that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford made in her speech was about making sure that young people themselves are engaged in the delivery of some of those services.
The hon. Lady also mentioned the National Citizen Service, whose central aim—the social mixing of young people from all kinds of backgrounds—is absolutely key. On a recent visit to a NCS programme in another south London borough, I was able to meet many of those youngsters and hear their positive experiences of NCS.
I also believe that it is worth giving some examples of exactly how DCMS funding is having an effect. Redthread, a charity with a 20-year track record in supporting young people through health and education programmes, is a really good example. Its youth violence intervention work puts key workers in hospital emergency departments so that they can engage with young people at their most vulnerable and help them to put their lives back together when they most need it. The Government are supporting the extension of this work from its London base to Nottingham and Birmingham.
The only effective solutions are proven to be the ones that connect young people to their loved ones, their neighbourhood and the wider society. There are many other recommendations in the report and I feel that my brief response just on youth services does not do them justice. However, there was one other point that was made in the report that I really want to pick up on. In the section on increasing employment opportunities, there is a reference to the shortage of black, Asian and minority ethnic role models involved in schools and youth organisations. I think we can extend that across the board, and I say to the hon. Lady that, with my other hat on—that of Sports Minister— I really share the concern that she and the other commissioners had. I have been working with sporting organisations to see how we can change that. Many youngsters look up to sports stars, whatever the sport, and we quite often use sport as an intervention programme within youth and serious violence services. If young people do not have those role models and do not see someone they can relate to, how can they ever believe that there is something out there for them and that can they achieve further? We need more BME leaders in sport from the grassroots to the top of the elite sporting pyramid. I feel very strongly about that and was pleased to see it included in that section of the report.
We recognise that there have been recent increases in murders, gun crime and knife crime, with those increases accompanied by a shift towards younger victims and perpetrators. However, statistics do not matter for a nanosecond to those caught up in the awful consequences of violence—the victim, their family and friends, and their communities—and the impact of such crimes is devastating. That was why the Government published the serious violence strategy earlier this year. The strategy represents a step change in how we think about and respond to serious violence. In particular, the strategy stresses the importance of early intervention to tackle the root causes of serious violence and provide young people with the skills and resilience to lead productive lives free from violence.
Although the causes and consequences of youth violence are often complex, effective solutions need not be. They can come from partnerships across Government, local councils, the criminal justice system, the voluntary sector and, most importantly, within communities themselves. This is the approach outlined in the interim report, and we all look forward to the commission’s final report. Until then, I shall conclude by thanking not only the hon. Lady, but the other commissioners, the advisory and academic team, the secretariat and, of course, all those who gave evidence to ensure that future policy development on this issue is considered responsibly and consistently throughout central and local government.
Question put and agreed to.