On Monday I attended the Prime Minister’s serious youth violence summit at 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister announced that she would be holding an emergency summit to discuss violent crime “in the coming days”… That was nearly a month ago.
Ahead of the summit, we were promised that the Government would be using a series of consultations to champion a whole community public health model. 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 and under-resourced; to add yet another responsibility without more resources to the shoulders of our brilliant, but strained, teachers and NHS staff is unacceptable.
For a public health approach to be successful, it is crucial for the whole community to be consulted and for all relevant sectors to have a genuine voice at the table. There were some brilliant people and so much expertise in the room on Monday, but I sadly left the meeting feeling like I’d sat through just another talking shop.
Most importantly of all, there is no point consulting on any of this without Government commitment to more resources across our public services – from youth centres to the police, and from schools to hospitals. A public health approach to violence requires long-term, cross-governmental commitment and a focus on very early intervention. The Government’s current approach has focused far too much on treating the symptoms of violence, and not the root causes. It is time for the Government to truly adopt the public health approach it claims to advocate.