Bishop of St Albans asks Government about serious youth violence

On 20th June 2019 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question he had tabled to Government on serious youth violence:


Baroness Barran: The Government response to the question put by the noble Lord is again to say, as was set out in the report of the Children’s Commissioner published in February this year, that many factors influence youth violence. We do not help young people if we try to pin it exclusively on one. The noble Lord makes a fair point about changes in provision for early years, but significant changes have also occurred in the drugs market which have had a significant influence. The Government’s focus is to move away from a purely criminal justice response towards a public health response and a long-term commitment in this area.

Baroness Manzoor (Con): My Lords, the violence and the deaths of young people on our streets are nothing short of a national emergency on a national scale. Can my noble friend the Minister say exactly what the Government are doing now to address this issue, particularly in relation to police visibility on our streets, youth funding and school exclusions?

In response to my noble friend’s specific questions, police funding is increasing by over £1 billion this year, as your Lordships are aware, and we are aware of plans to recruit of a further 3,500 police officers and staff. With youth services, we are particularly proud of the Youth Endowment Fund that the Government have announced, which will be delivered over 10 years. Those of us who have worked in the charity sector know how valuable 10-year funding is. The figures on school exclusions are not entirely clear about the impact of exclusions, but 21% of young people convicted of possession of a knife were excluded from school, 50% of them after the event.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I appreciate that the noble Baroness said that the Government were doing a lot, but their so-called Serious Violence Strategy is actually an underfunded collection of unconnected existing initiatives and various piecemeal pots of money that have been indiscriminately thrown at the problem over recent years. When will the Government take youth violence seriously by setting specific goals based on a coherent and comprehensive strategy to address both the symptoms and causes of youth violence?

Baroness Barran: I think the noble Lord is a little harsh. The Government absolutely recognise that a huge culture change is required and that for too long the police have been the service of last resort in addressing youth violence. That will never get to the root of the problem unless we are able to engage other services—education, health and so forth. So just two days ago, as the noble Lord may be aware, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced funding for the initial establishment of 18 violence reduction units, which I hope will produce exactly the results the noble Lord aspires to.

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