A Serious Violence Strategy backed with £40m of funding has been launched by the Home Office.
The strategy acknowledges the changing drugs market and in particular crack cocaine, ‘county lines’ and its implications for drugs, violence and exploiting vulnerable people and includes a focus on early intervention to educate young people.
However, council leaders have warned the strategy will not be implemented without additional funding and children’s services leaders say it offers little in terms of helping local authorities to develop local responses.
Launching the strategy home secretary Amber Rudd said: “A crucial part of our approach will be focusing on and investing more in prevention and early intervention.
“We need to engage with our young people early and to provide the incentives and credible alternatives that will prevent them from being drawn into crime in the first place. This in my view is the best long-term solution.”
The strategy stresses the importance of early intervention to tackle the root causes of serious violence and steer young people away from crime in the first place, while ensuring the police continue to have the tools and support they need to tackle violent crime.
The strategy creates a new £11 million Early Intervention Youth Fund for community projects to help young people live lives free from violence and a further £3.6 million has been allocated to establish a new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre.
A new Serious Violence Taskforce will be created which will bring together the voluntary sector, local government, police and other key sectors to ensure the strategy is delivered effectively.
Welcoming the focus on early intervention, Stuart Gallimore, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The impact of austerity, cuts to youth services and across the public sector on the availability of positive activities for young people within their communities cannot be understated. Add to this staggering levels of child poverty and stubbornly high numbers of young people not in education or training, leaving young people with nowhere to go making them more vulnerable to exploitation by gangs. Prevention and early action is key, this must involve co-ordination of a wide range of services, including those to support families and young people, but also stimulating housing, employment opportunities and community facilities. The strategy emphasises the importance of local communities and partnerships yet provides little for local authorities to develop local responses.”
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils also face significant rises in demand for urgent child protection work and with a children’s services funding gap that will reach almost £2 billion by 2020, councils are increasingly having to divert funding away from preventative work into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.
“Only with the right funding and powers can councils continue to make a difference to people’s lives by supporting families and young people and help tackle serious violent crime in our local communities,” he added.