Another week and another Parliamentary committee highlights the importance of youth services.

This time the Home Affairs Committee produced their report on the government's response to knife crime. They fundamentally see the response as inadequate and piecemeal doing little more than responding to media focus rather than the long term needs of young people and the communities they live in. In the end this had led to young people losing their lives and communities and families blighted by unnecessary youth violence.

Committee findings

They acknowledged government strategy does commit to a public health response to the crisis, focusing on improving conditions in communities that will stop the rise of knife crime in the first place and not just on criminalising young people. But the committee pointed out there were few signs that these words were turning into action and highlighted there were ‘no new proposals and only a gathering of existing information and responses’

The report highlights too the significant role that school exclusion plays in exacerbating the disconnection that young people feel from their communities. The committee ‘suggests that our education system is currently failing many children, including those most in need of holistic support and early intervention. There is a pressing need for more investment in wraparound support to keep a child in mainstream education.

The drug market is also changing, with county lines drawing vulnerable young people into exploitation and gang violence. The committee also highlighted the role of social media and the need for these digital companies to take more responsibility for how social media is used to exploit young people. 

Finally, but most importantly they drew a direct link between poverty and deprivation and youth violence. They stated ‘This points to the need for a broad, population-wide approach to prevention, with enhanced interventions to support the communities most at risk of violence.’ BAME young people are more likely to suffer too with 27% of incidents involving young people from these backgrounds.

From these observations they make some bold, but not unexpected recommendations. Long term provision of youth work was at the heart of their proposals.

The report states:

‘Witnesses to this inquiry were almost united in their calls for more youth services, but local authority budgets are being increasingly consumed by statutory services (...) The Government needs to introduce a fully-funded, statutory minimum of provision for youth outreach workers and community youth projects in all areas, co-designed with local young people. This would be a national Youth Service Guarantee, with a substantial increase in services and ringfenced funding from central Government’.

This could not be clearer. We know in Bristol that youth services provided by Creative Youth Network and others already support young people at risk of engaging in knife crime. But we know too that youth services prevent young people from engaging in it in the first place.

The report acknowledged that many more young people are carrying knives – often in a misguided need for personal safety. Good youth work helps young people to find alternatives and engage in positive activities that develop both their self confidence and builds new skills. Positive peer groups and a good relationship with a youth worker are the best way of steering young people clear of those who would exploit them. As importantly, youth work can help young people reach their potential, find their talents and see a future for themselves despite the struggles they face. 

Here are Creative Youth Network we support the Home Affairs Committee assertion that well resourced Youth Services are a key response to the rise in knife crime but add so much more to young peoples lives. Let us know what you think in the comments below.