The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has expressed disappointment at the government’s continued punitive approach to knife crime. In response to the Youth Select Committee’s knife crime report, the government have laid out their plans to combat the knife crime epidemic.
Responding to the report, the government stated it was ‘determined to tackle the scourge of serious violence’. The Committee has scrutinised the response and welcomes the government’s investment in Violence Reduction Units. It also applauded the government’s commitment to listening to the wider community including young people as part of the Serious Violence Strategy.
In response, the Government committed to tackling violent crime, including addressing key drivers of crime and diverting people away from involvement in serious violence. The Government emphasised targeted investment in early intervention programmes that will help young people, as well as initiatives to support youth workers, ex-offenders and those who have been expelled from school.
However, the committee is concerned to learn the government has ignored many of the recommendations made by the group of young people. Following the response, the committee wishes to reiterate some of their key recommendations and underline the importance of meaningfully engaging young people in decision making.
The committee recommends:
- The Committee were particularly disappointed to see the government taking steps to introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which only serves to extend punitive measures and could take more steps to enshrine preventative measures into law.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed. The Committee is especially concerned that the Serious Violence Reduction Order, which gave police personalised powers to target “proven criminals”, may lead to greater targeting of Black men; this power will make it easier to stop and search with no immediate reason.
- The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime. The Government has highlighted welcome investment for the youth sector but, in their response to the Committee’s report, has not set out a strategy for how they will address the systemic issues which trap young people in a cycle of violence.
- The Government should commit to long term funding plans of at least 5 years to ensure partners are able to develop effective ways of helping young people at risk of knife crime. The Committee noted that many of the interventions highlighted in their response were only funded over 1-3 years.
- The Government should continue to work to ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
Commenting on the government’s response to the report on knife crime, Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee is very pleased to have finally received a response from the Government – over a year after our report was released.
“The issue of violent knife crime is one of the biggest facing young people in this country and we are glad that some of our recommendations have been agreed to. However, we feel the government could be doing much more and we implore the government to act on their commitment, to ensure that tackling knife crime is not only top of their agenda but that preventative measures take priority.”
Knife crime continues to be a significant issue in England and Wales, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The response from the Home Office has been issued following the committees thorough inquiry. Knife crime was examined following a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern. Subsequently the investigation concluded knife crime was fuelled by cuts to important and arguably life-saving public services for vulnerable young people. The committee concluded that socio-economic factors are crucial in making some young people vulnerable to violence, gangs and knife crime and highlighted the need for better services to reach those at risk.
The Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament and the British Youth Council, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.