Today the government sets out the start of crucial work to tackle gang and youth violence through prevention and tough punishment.
Young people at risk of being drawn into gangs and violence will be targeted at every stage of their lives – from toddlers to teenagers – in a comprehensive approach aimed at preventing the next generation of gang members.
Those who refuse help will be met by the full force of strengthened laws to protect local communities from crime and disorder.
The five key principles underpinning the cross-government strategy are:
- Pathways out of crime;
- Partnership working; and
- Provision of central support.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘Our first duty is to bring violence under control by providing the police and other agencies with the support and powers they need to protect communities affected by serious youth violence. There can never be an excuse for criminality and it must be dealt with swiftly and robustly.
‘But gang and youth violence is not a problem that can be solved by enforcement alone. We need to change the life stories of young people currently ending up dead or wounded on our streets or locked in a cycle of re-offending.
‘Today’s report is a serious, systematic, practical, and comprehensive approach aimed at helping towns and cities across the country find long-term and enduring solutions to youth violence.’
The strategy builds on successful work already being undertaken across government and at a local level by police forces, local agencies, charities and voluntary organisations and by young people themselves around the country, many of whom have fed into the development of the strategy.
Action set out in today’s report includes:
Preventing young people becoming involved in violence in the first place with a new emphasis on early intervention and prevention. We will:
- deliver our existing commitments on early intervention which research shows is the most cost-effective way of reducing violence in later life. We will double the capacity of Family Nurse Partnerships, recruit 4200 more health visitors by 2015 and invest over £18m in specialist services to identify and support domestic violence victims and their children who themselves are at particular risk of turning to violence in adulthood;
- review existing materials on serious youth violence being used in schools and ensure schools know how to access the most effective;
- improve the education offered to excluded pupils to reduce their risk of involvement in gang violence and other crime; and
- support parents worried about their children’s behaviour by working with a range of family service providers to develop new parent-friendly advice on gangs.
Pathways out of violence and the gang culture for young people wanting to make a break with the past. We will:
- continue to promote intensive family intervention work with the most troubled families, including of gang members, with a specific commitment to roll out Multi-Systemic Therapy for young people with behavioural problems and their families to 25 sites by 2014;
- set up a second wave of Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion schemes for young offenders at the point of arrest, which identify and target mental health and substance misuse problems. These will be targeted at areas where there is a known and significant gang or youth crime problem;
- encourage A&E departments to refer all young people under 18 admitted with knife or gang assault wounds to children’s social care for safeguarding action and explore the potential for placing youth workers in A&E departments to identify and refer young people at risk of serious violence;
- support areas, through the Ending Gang and Youth Violence Team, to roll out schemes to re-house former gang members wanting to exit the gang lifestyle;
- explore ways to improve education provision for young people in the secure estate and for those released from custody; and
- implement new offending behaviour programmes for violent adult offenders in prison and under community supervision, including new modules on gang violence.
Punishment and enforcement to suppress the violence of those refusing to exit violent lifestyles. We will:
- extend police powers to take out gang injunctions to cover teenagers aged 14 to 17;
- implement custodial sentences for people using a knife to threaten or endanger others – including for offenders aged 16 and 17;
- introduce mandatory life sentences for adult offenders convicted of a second very serious violent or sexual crime;
- extend the work that the UK Border Agency undertakes with the police using immigration powers to deport dangerous gang members who are not UK citizens – drawing on the success of Operation Bite in London; and
- consult on whether the police need additional curfew powers and on the need for, and appropriateness of, a new offence of possession of illegal firearms with intent to supply and on the appropriate penalty for illegal firearm importation.
Partnership working to join up the way local areas respond to gang and other youth violence. We will:
- issue clear and simple guidelines on data sharing to clarify once and for all the position on what information can be shared between agencies about high risk individuals on a risk aware, not risk averse basis;
- promote the roll-out of Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) which co-locate police and other public protection agencies to cut bureaucracy and make it easier to share information and agree actions;
- deliver on our commitment that all hospital A&E departments share anonymised data on knife and gang assaults with the police and other agencies and pilot the feasibility of including A&E data on local crime maps; and
- encourage the use of local multi-agency reviews after every gang related homicide to ensure every area learns the lessons of the most tragic cases.
Providing support to local areas wanting to tackle their gang or serious youth violence problem. We will:
- establish an Ending Gang and Youth Violence Team working with a virtual network of over 100 expert advisers to provide practical advice and support to local areas with a gang or youth violence problem;
- provide £10m in Home Office funding in 2012/13 to support up to 30 local areas to improve the way mainstream services identify, assess and work with the young people most at risk of serious violence.
- invest at least £1.2m of additional resource over the next 3 years in improving services for young people under 18 suffering sexual violence in our major urban areas – with a new focus on the girls and young women caught up in gang related rape and abuse.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:
‘Gangs are having a devastating impact on our most deprived neighbourhoods. The violence they perpetrate leaves communities living in daily fear, feeling powerless to do anything.
‘Tackling this is a key government priority. Local communities, including their young people, should be supported to deliver a clear message that enough is enough, and local agencies, police and the voluntary sector can together provide the services needed to stop the violence. Those gang members who want to exit gang life should be helped to do so, but those who continue to commit violence should feel the full force of the law.
‘Only by effectively working together can we turn the tide of gang violence, and in doing so transform the lives of the young people and families in those communities.”