Today the home secretary has set out his vision to tackle serious youth crime. It began with the usual culprit, knife crime. Expecting the same repetition, I was pleasantly surprised when Mr Javid moved passed the weapon blaming and reactive response and onto the prevention agenda. Hopefully funding will now reflect this.
Finally, there was an acknowledgement of the evidence base, the public health approach and the view that all Government departments must work together to tackle this issue. Unfortunately, the words ‘cross party working’ were still missing which of course means we will still see the agenda change with each Government and this inconsistency will continue to perpetuate the issue. Potentially undoing any hard work invested. Maybe this will change in due course.
Whilst it was a relief to finally hear that the Government were going to take an evidence based approach it was still disheartening to believe that this was seen as new or innovative. Violence was described as a virus back in 2002 by the World Health Organisation in their report and evidence base on violence prevention. Mr Javid has finally used the description ‘viral disease’ in 2019, 17 years after the original evidence, our Government finally has begun to catch up.
Mr Javid wants to bring health, education and social influences together using the public health approach to violence prevention. He wants to share data to target interventions. Fantastic! But why has it taken so long! The Cardiff Model of Violence prevention has been around for many years which used data and the public health approach to dramatically reduce violence in Cardiff. The Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland achieved great results with similar approaches. Why have England been so far behind the curve?
The one thing I was hoping to hear was that the school system and the curriculum would form a part of the strategy. That the curriculum would be changed to create equal opportunities, offer more support to young people’s individual needs and work to improve life skills and preventing the risk factors associated with violent crime. Sadly, this is still missing. Schools are an opportunity to catch all young people, those at risk, those not at risk and the large majority who sit in between. As Mr Javid said, once a young person becomes known to the police it is too late. We must see schools doing more in this effort but they need better funding and a more flexible curriculum, which focuses on the child and society and not purely on academic achievement and qualification.
Overall this is a positive start to tackling violent crime in the UK. The finer detail is yet to be filled in and I hope that there is still time for the education system to form a part of the prevention effort. We at Stand Against Violence look forward to working with the Government to help shape this work.