This article appeared in the 12/04/19 edition of the South London Press.
Last week, I attended the Prime Minister’s summit on serious youth violence (this was the emergency summit the Prime Minister assured us would be organised in “the coming days” at PMQs nearly a month ago).
Ahead of the summit, the Government announced it would be using a series of consultations to champion a whole community public health model. For a public health approach to be successful, it is crucial for the whole community to be part of the strategy and for all relevant sectors to have a genuine voice at the table. However, teachers and NHS staff have already expressed concern about the Government’s new proposals to hold schools and NHS workers legally accountable for failing to spot violent crime among young people.
Through my work with the Youth Violence Commission, I haven’t spoken to a single nurse, teacher or youth worker who isn’t in some way impacted by serious youth violence and who doesn’t desperately want to do all they can to keep young people safe. Our schools and hospitals are already overstretched; to add yet another responsibility to the shoulders of our brilliant, but strained, teachers and NHS staff is unacceptable.
This is the crux of the problem, and no number of schemes, speeches or summits will fix years of chronic underfunding to our public services. If the Government is serious about implementing a public health approach, it will require long-term, cross-governmental funding and a focus on early intervention. Schools are of course on the frontline of tackling youth violence, but how can they be expected to do more than they are already doing without more resources and more support staff? After years of austerity, most schools I speak to have struggled not to cut the pastoral care that was in place a decade ago.
There were some fantastic people and so much expertise in the room last week, but I sadly left the summit feeling like I’d sat through just another talking shop. The Prime Minister has called many of the right people to join the conversation. Now is the time for her to listen to their advice and fund the public health approach the Government claims to advocate.