Last month I dedicated my column in the South London Press to the work of the Youth Violence Commission. A copy of the article is below and you can read the Commission’s interim report here: www.yvcommission.com/interim-report
Last month the Youth Violence Commission, a cross-party group of MPs that I Chair, launched its interim policy report, outlining our emerging recommendations to tackle youth violence. This has been two years in the making and sadly the need for long term solutions becomes increasingly pressing with each passing day.
The day after we launched this report, the Office of National Statistics reported that knife crime had increased nationally by 16% and has now reached an all-time high. Homicides have risen for the fourth consecutive year in a row, and so far this year over 80 murder investigations have been opened in London alone. Many of these victims are teenagers and we are seeing younger victims and perpetrators. In the last three years, the Met police arrested nearly 300 children under the age of 12 for carrying a weapon in London. This is heart-breaking and we cannot allow ourselves to become immune to statistics like this.
There are no quick fixes to tackle youth violence, but with the right strategy and leadership it can be achieved. Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, for instance, has achieved a remarkable drop in violence since it was set up in 2005. Within a decade, Scotland had more than halved its murder rate and last year not a single teenager was murdered in Scotland. Karyn McCluskey, the brilliant former director of the Violence Reduction Unit, has been beyond generous in her advice to the Youth Violence Commission. She argues that we must treat violence as a public health concern and I absolutely agree. We have a lot to learn from Scotland and our recommendations have been heavily influenced by the Scottish model.
The drivers of youth violence are complex and we need a strategy to span a generation. All too often strategies change with each new Government. Funding is moved from project to project, schemes are started and quickly dropped. Youth violence deserves the attention of politicians with their minds on the long-term future – not just the next election.
The launch of our report last week is just the start of our campaign to reduce youth violence. We all know that national attention on knife crime and youth violence is fleeting – briefly intense and then quickly forgotten as the news cycle moves on. As politicians on the Youth Violence Commission it is our responsibility to keep this on the agenda and I will continue to campaign until all political parties sign up to our long-term recommendations to truly reduce youth violence.