Domestic violence, school exclusions and ‘adverse early childhood experiences’ are some of the factors behind serious youth violence, says a new council report that recommends Southwark adopts a ‘public health’ approach to tackling knife crime.
As the News has reported, knife crime and gang-related violence is increasingly seen by the government, doctors, academics and social workers as a crisis which goes beyond pure law enforcement – with activists in Southwark calling for this approach to be taken up in our area after it was successful in Glasgow.
At a meeting on Monday, September 3, the council’s scrutiny committee heard that there needs to be ‘a better service for those who are trying to leave a criminal lifestyle’, including prison-leavers, more services and support operating outside 9-5 weekday hours, and a plan to support children who have mental health problems or have experienced trauma – and intervene much earlier to stop a cycle of violence into adulthood.
Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for community safety and public health told the News: “The ‘Knife Crime Review’ was the result of a ‘scrutiny in a day’ event that was held in Peckham earlier this year as part of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny function.
“The event gathered together a wide cross-section of residents from around the borough to hear evidence from young people with experience of gangs and officers from the council, police and other agencies dealing with related issues of youth violence, safeguarding and sexual exploitation.
“A number of recommendations came out of the day and these have been used to inform our future plans to address knife crime in the borough.
“One recommendation was to include young people in the solution to these issues.
“Recently our Young Advisors held a Youth Voice Summit; the first event of its kind saw young people from various schools across the borough come together to speak to council and police leaders to share their experiences of what life is like for them in Southwark as well as hear their views on what they would like to see from the authorities.
“We are also currently recruiting young people from various backgrounds, to be part of Southwark Youth Independent Advisory Group. This will give young people an opportunity to have their voices heard and to shape and influence statutory agencies working to tackle knife crime.
“As a borough, we are moving in the right direction, but we are not complacent, we know there is still a long way to go.
“However what we are clear on is that there is no one size fits all approach to ending knife crime and as a local authority we remain open-minded about what approaches to take.
“Where there is evidence to support a certain way of working we will consider it.”