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Prime Minister needs to listen to young people in knife crime debate

Published on
08 August 2019

Young people directly affected by knife crime visited 10 Downing Street today (Thursday) to demand the new Prime Minister listens to their views on how to tackle the crisis.

They delivered a letter to Boris Johnson signed by more than one hundred young people alongside a 12-point manifesto outlining actions young people believe would make Britain’s streets safer.

The young people have worked with the cross-party All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime, supported by Barnardo’s and Redthread and chaired by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones.

The manifesto is included in the APPG’s report entitled, ‘There is No Protection on the Streets, None’, published today, about young people’s perspectives on knife crime.

The 12-point manifesto includes the need to tackle underlying causes of violent crime in communities – such as lack of housing, youth services and employment opportunities.

It calls for the Government to support young people who are involved in, or at risk of being involved in county lines gang activity. And also asks for more community police officers to be introduced to build relationships in neighbourhoods and help prevent crime before it happens.

The young people involved have requested an urgent meeting with the new PM to talk through the issue.

One of the young people delivering the letter is Barnardo’s service user Zak, from Redbridge, East London, who went into care aged 16. Earlier this year his younger brother was stabbed close to his school and one of his friends was murdered.

Zak, 24, has been supported by Barnardo’s Redbridge Leaving Care service. He said:

“Knife crime has affected my family and what happened to my brother hurt me emotionally. I now look at the whole issue of youth violence a lot more seriously because it’s different to how it was when I was that age.

“Now I see the problem; now I see the danger, and I’m worried for young people aged from 14 to 21, because in my opinion, that is the age group which is at the greatest risk of knife crime.”

Last week a cross-party select committee of MPs called youth violence a ‘national emergency’, and claimed the Government’s response to-date has been ‘completely inadequate’.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics in July revealed that knife crime in England and Wales hit a record high in 2018/19, up 8 per cent on the previous year.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“Caught up in the knife crime epidemic, these young people are demanding action so their lives are no longer blighted by violence.

 “They are right to say that there is not one single solution to stopping the stabbings on our streets. As leaders in Government, parliament and charities, we must come together to help them by addressing the poverty of hope felt by many children and young people across the country, who see little or no chance of a positive future. 

 “This starts with the new PM listening to their concerns and agreeing to meet them. They are the people most affected by the violence and their voices need to be heard.”

The APPG is concerned about cuts to youth services. Figures obtained by the group in May show the average council has cut real-terms spending on youth services by 40 percent over the past three years.

Chair of the APPG, and Croydon Central MP, Sarah Jones said:

“Our new Prime Minister must take responsibility for solving the epidemic of serious violence facing our country. He needs to be clear this will be both a national and personal priority.

“The response to this emergency must be led from the very top, and the APPG’s new report shows that the voice of young people must be at the forefront. 

“Boris Johnson has suggested that knife crime can be solved simply by increasing stop and search, but the solutions proposed by young people today show he needs to think much bigger. I hope he listens and agrees to meet them in person.”

Redthread Chief Executive John Poyton said:

“Young people are the experts of their own lives and it is crucial that not only do we listen to what they have to say, but that their voices are central in shaping policies that affect them.

“All sectors of society must work together to tackle youth violence and fundamentally must include young people’s lived experience.”