Invest in charities tackling youth violence, voluntary sector urges government

Government investments in youth intervention are "far too fragmented and small-scale", Home Affairs Committee report argues

Charities have urged the government to involve the voluntary sector more in attempts to tackle youth violence after MPs branded the existing approach "completely inadequate". 

The cross-bench Home Affairs Committee today published the 85-page report Serious Youth Violence, which analyses government measures to address issues such as a 70 per cent increase in knife offences over the past five years.

"We have concluded that the government’s serious violence strategy is a completely inadequate response to this wave of violence blighting our communities," the report says.

"It contains no targets or milestones, few new actions, and no clear mechanisms for driving forward activity at a national and regional level."

The report describes the situation as a social emergency and recommends that ministers introduce a statutory minimum provision of youth outreach workers and community youth projects in all areas, co-designed by young people.

"This would be a national Youth Service Guarantee, with a substantial increase in services and ring-fenced funding from central government," it says.

The report says agencies are failing to work together to support young people and calls for more urgent action on prevention and early prevention.

The report does not make recommendations on which sector is best placed to provide solutions, but Junior Smart, founder of the SOS Gangs Project, which is run by the St Giles Trust, said charities should be involved more.

Smart said charities were often more nimble and flexible than statutory services, which he said could be slow to respond.

"There is definitely more charities could do," he suggested.

Anna Smee, chief executive of UK Youth, the largest national body for the youth sector, welcomed the report's focus on reinvesting in youth work. 

"We are calling on the government to invest £50m immediately into youth services and to ensure a 10-year commitment to young people through the first-ever youth charter," she said.

Sam Royston, director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said the investment would help support young people seeking to overcome challenges in early life. 

"Extra investment is needed in professional training, prevention, early intervention and youth services to help children overcome challenges in their lives, and the government must urgently address the £3bn shortfall facing council children’s services departments by 2025," he said. 

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, chair of the British Youth Council, said: "Young people should be involved in any decision-making that will affect their lives, but given the severity of this issue and the fact young people think it’s one of the biggest issues facing young people at the moment, it's important that young people have an opportunity to influence government on this issue."

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