Youth charity leaders have criticised a Home Office campaign that uses chicken shops to discourage knife crime for being ill-advised, stereotyping and offensive.
Leaders also said the campaign, in which the true stories of people affected by knife crime are printed on the inside of the lids of chicken shop boxes alongside the hashtag #knifefree, was evidence that the government had failed to listen to the advice of charities and community groups on the issue.
Instead, they said, government should invest in youth and community schemes to tackle the problem.
The Home Office announced the campaign in a tweet yesterday afternoon, revealing that the boxes would appear in 210 branches of Morley’s, Dixy Chicken and Chicken Cottage across England and Wales.
We are rolling out our #KnifeFree chicken boxes in over 210 chicken shops in England and Wales, including Morley’s, Dixy Chicken and Chicken Cottage. They use real life stories to show people how they can go #KnifeFree. pic.twitter.com/vrG4WWa56v— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) August 14, 2019
Sajda Mughal, chief executive of the Jan Trust, a north London-based charity working with marginalised women and young people, told Third Sector: "It’s stereotypical to think those carrying knives hang out or eat at chicken shops. This campaign has been ill-advised.
"Instead of the Home Office ploughing into this type of campaign, which is not likely to make a difference, investment should be made in community projects and youth services that have been hard hit."
Maddie Dinwoodie, deputy chief executive at UK Youth, said: "Tackling serious violence needs a multi-agency approach that tackles the root of the problem and is developed in partnership with young people."
She said part of the solution should be providing young people with access to youth organisations in local communities, support from trusted adults and positive activities.
"There are a diminishing number of local safe places to engage with young people, but chicken shops are not the solution," said Dinwoodie.
Ibegbuna described the campaign as "so many levels of wrong: stupid, offensive, idiotic, embarrassing, ineffective and 100 per cent cringey".
She wrote: "Public information messaging could sit alongside a well thought-out programme of prevention, deterrence and community support.
"For the Home Office to lead with something that misses the mark so spectacularly just shows they have absolutely no clue about the issue and aren’t listening."
She said it demonstrated "how much time successive governments have wasted ‘consulting’ on this issue and then implementing nothing that those who know and care suggest as solutions". She called for investment in prevention and long-term solutions.
Other Twitter users described the campaign as racist and ineffective.
The Home Office did not provide a comment before publication of this story.