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Call for long-term investment in Violence Reduction Units

Gang of youths fighting

The final report of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission (YVC), launched today (Monday 13 July 2020), calls for long-term investment in Violence Reduction Units to keep young people safe.

In light of the social and economic devastation caused by 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. In this context, it argues that it is imperative the Government provide guaranteed support to, and investment in, the 18 recently established Violence Reduction Units across the UK, which hold significant potential in driving down levels of serious violence.

Led by Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers, OU Lecturer in Criminology, in joint-collaboration with colleagues from the University of Warwick, the report exposes the root causes of youth violence, the economic costs in their tens of billions, and makes recommendations based on research evidence.

The Youth Violence Commission report makes key policy recommendations centred around providing enhanced support for the 18 regional Violence Reduction Units.

Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers 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. While young people must take some responsibility for their own actions, likewise adults 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.”

“Our work also shows that youth violence has cost £11 billion over the last 12 years,” said Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers. “These are costs that can fall on, for example, the health service, or on policing, on the criminal justice system and victims’ services. So, if we can bring down rates of violence among young people, we are actually saving money for the economy as well as keeping young people safe.”

Key Recommendations

The Commission produced a raft of evidence-informed policy recommendations, which include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Using the forthcoming reinvestment in police officer numbers to rebuild the police’s capacity to engage in neighbourhood and community policing, focused on establishing trust and confidence in the police.
  • Providing Local Authorities with Central Government 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.

Watch the video to hear about the report’s recommendations:

Underpinning research

Since taking up his post with The Open University in January 2017, Dr Irwin-Rogers has acted as the lead criminologist for the cross-party YVC conducting research alongside economists from the University of Warwick’s Policy Lab. The YVC was established by a cross-party group of MPs to identify and promote evidence-based policies aimed at reversing the upward trend in knife crime and serious violence between young people. Dr Irwin-Rogers’ research into the potential benefits and feasibility of a public health approach to reducing serious youth violence in England and Wales has consisted of three main strands:

  • Interviews and observations with the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, which provided evidence that one of the key factors in reducing violence in Glasgow had been a move away from narrow, suppression and enforcement-based strategies, and their replacement with a public health approach.
  • A National ‘Safer Lives’ survey on youth violence, which gathered evidence on the nature and scope of violence affecting a diverse sample of over 2,000 young people in England and Scotland. These findings helped to shape the Commission’s recommendations around the importance of early intervention and increasing early years support to children and families.
  • Expert evidence sessions in 2017-2018 which Dr Irwin-Rogers played a central role in designing. These sessions exposed the limitations of narrow policing and suppression-based approaches to reducing youth violence and provided support for holistic public health approaches overseen and coordinated by regional Violence Reduction Units.

Find out more about OU Research in Social Policy & Criminology

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