One of the questions we’ll be discussing at the conference is the question of how early intervention can prevent the problem of gang involvement and youth violence.
The challenges aren’t new. Effective early intervention to prevent gang involvement and youth violence means understanding what puts children at risk, and spotting the signs as early as possible. Many partners need to be involved – from the police to youth workers to school nurses and sexual health practitioners. Once these children are identified, support needs to be integrated with wider early help services, with health services, with the youth offending service, and with the police.
Katie’s story shows the complexity of this. Katie is 17 and one of five children living in poor housing in an area of multiple deprivation. Her mother is a drug user and the family have been known to social services for many years. Last year, the five children were moved to live with their father, due to their mother’s drug use. Their father had been largely absent through Katie’s childhood. He found her behaviour challenging and asked for support. Support was given through the early help team, but in spite of this, Katie started to go missing frequently and was seen in the company of known gang members. Just before Christmas, she was arrested and found to be in possession of twenty wraps of heroin. She is currently on bail and in care.
Such complex cases, with multiple risk factors and a number of agencies involved, demand really effective multi-agency working and information sharing.
EIF are working with the Home Office this year to support local areas under the Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme. We’re taking a look at the evidence base for what works to prevent these problems, offering advice and support around understanding and identifying risk factors, and working with some Ending Gang and Youth Violence areas on specific themes – how to engage schools for example. We are also working with the College of Policing to look at the role that the police can play in early intervention, and will be providing some practical advice on this to make sure young people like Katie receive the support they need.