The final report of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission (YVC), supported by researchers from The Open University and the University of Warwick is launched today (Monday 13 July) calling for specific action to tackle the rising social and financial costs of youth violence.
In light of COVID-19, the Commission is deeply concerned about the potential for levels of serious violence between young people to rise in the coming months and years.
It argues the Government should provide guaranteed support to, and investment in, the 18 recently established Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) across the UK, which hold significant potential in driving down levels of serious violence.
If support and investment is withdrawn from these VRUs the Commission fears this would undo much of the hugely important work that has taken place since the first VRU was established in September 2018.
Violent crime and the use of Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) are also the subjects of a BBC Panorama investigation, ‘How Scotland Cut Violent Crime’ with Kate Silverton, airing on BBC One at 19:30 on Monday 13 July.
The Youth Violence Commission’s final report outlines the economic and social cost of youth violence, with unique analysis revealing that serious youth violence has cost the UK £11bn since 2008. This means, say report authors, that the VRU network would only need to reduce serious youth violence by 3% to be cost-effective.
The Commission’s Safer Lives Survey found a staggering 50% of respondents aged 16-19 reported personally knew at least one young person who had been hospitalised by serious violence in the past five years.
The final report shines a spotlight on the signification proportion of young people whose lives are characterised by high levels of insecurity, anxiety and trauma, all intensified by significant levels of child poverty and inequality.
- Unique analysis by the Commission that brings together statistics from the Home Office and the Crime Survey for England & Wales has revealed that serious youth violence cost the UK economy £11bn since 2008.
- Given these huge economic and social costs, the VRU network would only need to reduce serious youth violence by 3% to be cost-effective.
- Over 50% of respondents aged 16-19 reported personally knowing at least one young person who had been hospitalized by serious violence in the past five years.
- The final report shines a spotlight on the signification proportion of young people whose lives are characterised by high levels of insecurity, anxiety and trauma, all intensified by significant levels of child poverty and inequality.
To inform the recommendations in its Final Report, the Commission gathered evidence from a series of expert evidence sessions held on the Parliamentary Estate, alongside an analysis of a national survey completed by more than 2,200 young people across England, Scotland and Wales.
The Commission complemented this newly generated data with the findings of the most recent and relevant research to produce a raft of evidence-informed policy recommendations which can be found in the final report. The Commission’s key recommendation centres on:
- Substantial and long-term investment in the 18 regional Violence Reduction Units, which were established shortly after the publication of the YVC’s Interim Report in July 2018. To give these units the very best chance of success, the YVC recommends a minimum of 10 years’ projected funding to enable them to pursue evidence-informed, long-term strategies for reducing serious violence.
- Using the forthcoming reinvestment in police officer numbers to rebuild the police’s capacity to engage in vital forms of neighbourhood policing. Effective community policing enables the police to gather the intelligence needed to effectively protect young people from serious violence.
- Immediate enhanced funding to better enable schools to support pupils by fostering inclusive educational environments that avoid the harmful practices of pupil off-rolling and exclusion.
- Central Government should provide Local Authorities with statutory funding and a clear statutory duty for providing youth services, the levels of which should be determined by the number of young people living in each Local Authority area.
Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers, Lecturer in Criminology, The Open University, joint academic partner to the Commission, said:
“For far too long, we have been shining a spotlight on the violence committed by young people, while downplaying or overlooking the serious violence and mistreatment inflicted on these very same young people.
“This includes the violence and abuse that many young people face daily in their own homes and on the streets, but it also includes many failures at the level of policy and institutions – schools that off-roll and exclude pupils at increasingly high rates, employment markets that offer little other than insecure, fixed-term and badly paid jobs, and flawed drug policies that create the space for rampant illicit drug markets.
“While young people must take responsibility for their own actions, likewise adults at a range of institutions must take more responsibility for ensuring these very same young people live in a society that properly protects them, and offers all young people hope for a better future.”
Professor Abhinay Muthoo, Professor of Economics, University of Warwick, joint academic partner to the Commission, said:
“The economic and social costs of serious youth violence across England and Wales are huge — since 2008, we estimate the total cost to be in the region of £11 billion.
“The costs have increased significantly in each and every region of England and Wales over the past four years, with some regions experiencing an increase in excess of 50%. This significant increase in costs reflects the recent increases in levels of serious violence between young people.
“These costs provide a powerful case for significant and sustained investment in preventative efforts to reduce serious youth violence. By focusing on violence prevention, the Government will save money in the long term and change many lives for the better.”
Vicky Foxcroft MP, Chair of the Youth Violence Commission said:
“We established the Youth Violence Commission in 2016 in response to the increasing number of young people losing their lives to violence. In just a few short months we lost several young people in my Lewisham Deptford constituency alone.”
“Since the publication of our interim report and initial recommendations in 2018, we have welcomed the establishment of regional Violence Reduction Units and the adoption of a public health approach by regional and national government.
“However, young people continue to lose their lives and the real work is yet to be done. We need to learn lessons from history and acknowledge that services which were cut as they were deemed ‘nice to have’ are in fact essential.
“It is vital that policymakers from across the political spectrum continue to work together to ensure that our young people feel the hope and optimism they deserve.”
Maddie Dinwoodie, Deputy CEO of UK Youth, Secretariat to the Commission, said:
“UK Youth became the secretariat of the Youth Violence Commission because we recognised that it’s imperative to include the voice of young people and those who support them, at the heart of any solutions. Recent data highlighted that nearly a third (32%) of young people said that not feeling safe on the streets stops them spending time with friends outside of school (YMCA, 2020).
“The COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated the tensions and root causes of serious violence. All young people should be equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute – not fear their future. We cannot accept another generation of young people will feel less happy and less safe than this one.”
Gary Trowsdale, Founder of the Spirit of London Awards and Lead Advisor to the Commission, said:
“This year is the 20th anniversary of the death of Damilola Taylor – a tragedy that made headline news around the world. As a society, we need to ask ourselves how it has come to pass that 20 years on, children killing children on our streets is now seen as a normal occurrence. As the former CEO of the Damilola Taylor Trust, the opportunity to support the team behind this report has been especially fulfilling.
“The learnings from the World Health Organisation and Scotland’s adoption of the public health approach have been our inspiration. In our view, the regional violence reduction units now established across the UK are absolutely the best way forward, and already some very talented and committed people are contributing towards their evolution. I hope this report provides a welcome platform for their progression.”