On Wednesday 12th February, the Youth Select Committee launched its report investigating the knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the UK. The Committee has ruled cuts to important and arguably life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime.
The report, titled ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime’ is being launched by members of the Committee at a special House of Commons reception in anticipation of a government response. Knife crime was investigated following a 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
Knife crime offences are reportedly at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice. 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 Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people particularly vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs. 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 should develop long-term funding plans of at least 5 years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.
- The Government should ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
- School exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.
- The Government should clarify its position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives and to consider whether there is another approach that could more effectively deter young people from continued involvement in knife crime.
- The next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice and other informal criminal justice responses as a first step to a young persons involvement in knife crime.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.
“If the government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament, 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.
Evidence for the Youth Select Committee’s report on knife crime was gathered in July from a range of expert witnesses, including leaders from the worlds of criminal justice, politics and the charity sector. Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence inside a Committee Room in Parliament, which is normally reserved for MPs, and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.
The British Youth Council have praised the UK Labour Party for publishing comprehensive plans for statutory youth services. The youth-led charity also called on other political parties to set out their proposals for services that meet the needs of young people growing up in the UK.
The new plans, which were published as part of Labour’s vision for ‘Rebuilding Youth Services’, also include pledges to support regional, national and international collaboration. Within the vision, the political party outlines plans to maintain a close future relationship with the EU and cooperate with Member States and other European countries to co-ordinate youth policy. Members of the British Youth Council have stressed the importance of recognising European and global youth work in the UK, particularly initiatives that connect European affairs and young people’s everyday lives.
Commenting on pledge, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Youth services across the country have been decimated since 2010. Labour’s comprehensive plan responds to the growing concerns of young people. Youth services need proper funding and a long-term vision so we can build a more fairer, safer and stronger environment for younger generations.
“We’d love you see more political parties making detailed offers to young people that directly address the multifaceted issues they face growing up in the UK”
The new commitments from the Labour Party, which follows recent announcements from the Government confirming a new Youth Investment Fund, includes a pledge to strengthen the UK Youth Parliament and local youth councils.
Responding to the announcement, Simran Sangherra, a member of the Procedures Group, which coordinates the UK Youth Parliament said: “We welcome Labour’s new commitments to statutory youth services. Young campaigners have been calling for better youth services for almost 10 years because we recognise how much they can support young people’s social and development needs.
“We’re also delighted to learn of their intention to strengthen youth voice. Young people should be at the forefront of decision making that affects their lives and UK Youth Parliament can play an important role in bringing about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning.”
As part of their plan, the opposition party also responded to long-standing calls for a dedicated minister, confirming they intend to appoint a Minister for Children and Young People with responsibility for the youth services at the Department for Education.
The British Youth Council welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to increase funding for youth services, following repeated calls for change from young people across the country.
Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed Government plans to introduce a new Youth Investment Fund. The new funding is set to help build new youth centres, refurbish exciting youth facilitates and provide mobile facilities for harder to reach areas. The Chancellor confirmed the £500 million funds would also support the provision and coordination of high-quality services for young people and an investment in the youth workforce.
Commenting on the new fund, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “We’re delighted to learn of the new confirmed funding which is being set aside for youth services. Young people should have access to youth services, regardless of where they live. We’ve been asking the Government to recognise the value of youth services for almost a decade because so many young people rely on these services.
“We know that young people face a multitude of issues. Youth services can play an integral role in creating a fairer, safer and stronger environment for young people.”
The British Youth Council have been campaigning for increased funding for youth provisions since 2010 when the Government cuts resulted in youth services across the UK suffering. The youth-led charity believes youth services are an important addition to young people’s formal education. Young people have persistently reminded the Government that youth services provide a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society.
The British Youth Council have been working with other leading youth organisations to highlight the importance of offering young people opportunities in their communities.