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Hundreds of young people being turned away from violence by specialist team

Posted onPosted on 25th Nov

More than 900 young people across Nottinghamshire have received intensive support by a specialist prevention team to turn their backs on serious violence and knife crime.

Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), which launched just over a year ago, is playing a vital role in the lives of hundreds of young people at risk of knife crime and violence as either perpetrators or victims.

As a national week of action against knife crime was held in Novembery, the spotlight was placed on the pioneering work the VRU is undertaking with young people and families to change lives.

Operation Sceptre provides a snapshot of the ongoing year-round work being undertaken to combat knife crime in Nottinghamshire which involves police, partners and local communities all working together.

Nottinghamshire’s VRU was one of 18 nationally to receive a provisional share of a £35m Home Office grant last year to establish a specialist team to tackle violent crime and prevent young people carrying knives.

Through its VRU Fund, the team has provided one-to-one support to more than 900 young people impacted by violence through custody intervention, targeted outreach and direct engagement. It has also supported around 30 families, with hundreds more community members engaged through its initiatives.

So far in 2020-21, the VRU has invested approximately £250k into projects which develop young people’s confidence, skills and motivation to help them resolve the problems known to escalate their risk of engaging in violence.

It has also allocated an additional £50,000 to children’s charities and non-profit organisations to support the mental wellbeing of young people and their families during the pandemic, helping more than 3,000 people while also reaching a further 80,000 young people through targeted social media,

The VRU received a grant of £74,720 from the Home Office’s Covid-19 Support for Vulnerable Children’s Charities and will allocate the remaining funding before the end of December.

Hundreds of volunteers and community workers across Nottinghamshire are involved in its work and helping to make a difference to young lives.

This means treating the causes of violence by focusing on the contributory issues such as adverse childhood experiences that may lead someone to become a victim or perpetrator of violence.

Since the VRU’s launch, there have been sustained reductions in knife crime across Nottinghamshire with latest National Office of Statistics figures confirming an 11 per cent drop in the year end to June 2020 – bucking the national and regional trend.

During the same period, knife crime rose by an average of seven per cent regionally while the reduction across England and Wales was just one per cent.

The strength of the prevention work, coupled with robust enforcement and proactive work from Nottinghamshire Police’s dedicated Knife Crime Team, have already put many vulnerable people on the road to a safer and positive future.

Dave Wakelin, director of the VRU, said: “As a small central team we have already achieved a lot. We are extraordinarily proud of the positive feedback we are getting.

“We were recently involved in a national evaluation and were perceived by the Home Office as having a high-performing VRU that has made really great strides.

“We spend a lot of time listening to community groups, individuals, families and parents who have lost children to knife crime because we feel as a VRU it’s really important to understand before acting. This has put us in a great position.

“We have also spent time getting to know the people responsible for delivering our services, developing relationships and nurturing the key projects so we’re always aware of what they are achieving.

“My absolute praise goes to Nottinghamshire Police for their approach to knife crime which has been really successful. The aim of the Violence Reduction Unit is to help make these reductions long-lasting.

“It is our role to bring partnership energy, based on the full understanding of what causes violence, in order to sustain our performance and stop young people being injured or sadly killed.”

The VRU supports a wealth of mentorship projects including the flagship custody mentoring scheme U-Turn, delivered by The Inspire & Achieve Foundation (IAF), which helps young people aged 16 to 26 who have been arrested for various offences to move away from crime and make a fresh start.

Another initiative includes Base 21’s Evolution Project which provides therapeutic counselling, including next day access to drop-in counselling, to young people affected by serious violence in recognition that adverse childhood experiences increase the risks of harm in adult life.

The VRU, which also works in schools to tackle bullying and problem behaviour, has recently appointed the first cohort of Community Ambassadors who will support its work, build relationships with local people and ensure communities across Nottinghamshire have the right provision and resources to help young people succeed.

All 11 Community Ambassadors have proven experience in supporting young people impacted by violence and will eventually be part of a 20-strong team.

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, who chairs the VRU, said: “The VRU has had a remarkable first year and has already shown the impact we can make as a society if we take time to understand young people’s backgrounds and problems and why they turn to violence.

“The projects we support do not judge or condemn but give young people the tools they need to make a success of their lives or address negative behavioural patterns. The journey may be long but with the right support people can and do change.

“Proactive and robust policing always has a place in fighting serious violence and we are grateful to the Force for everything they do to make our streets safer. Through our joint efforts and partnership work, we are giving young people the chance and opportunity to change course and I’m confident we will save many more young lives in the future.”

Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “Teamwork is required to better understand and address the root causes of violent crime.

“The VRU is a shining example of how partner agencies can work collaboratively and with our communities to achieve positive outcomes for the public.

“Knife crime is continuing to fall in Nottinghamshire and I am determined to continue to build even further on our successful partnership working to reduce violence on our streets and prevent it from happening in the first place.”

The VRU, which is overseen by the PCC as chair of the VRU Strategic Board, brings together specialists from the Police, NHS, County and City Council, Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), education, Public Health England and the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).

The team looks beyond statistics and follows a ‘prevention is better than cure’ strategy, intervening through holistic methods including education and mentorship before violence has a chance to take hold.