But while everyone has different views about how to tackle youth crime, the need for early intervention to stop young children going down the wrong path in the first place is one approach most of us can agree upon.
Evidence shows that if done properly, with the support of experienced professionals, it can have transformative effects on young people.
Too often, we see children heading in the wrong direction. How often have we heard people say they know what’s going to “become” of them, if only someone would do something.
The Youth Endowment Fund has been set up to start doing that something. The Fund is an independent £200m initiative, set up by the Government, to identify and support early interventions right across the country.
It’s easy to lose your way when you’re young. I know there were moments in my childhood when I needed a trusted adult to put their hand on my shoulder and steer me in the right direction. Not all children are that lucky. We’ll work with those on the frontline, whether teachers, mentors, sports coaches, to be that hand on the shoulder, which is why we were so interested in your report this week. We’ll then work with organisations helping these young people to enable them to expand what’s working locally, regionally and even nationally.
We’ve all heard the old saying that prevention is better than cure. This applies to children getting caught up in crime, as much as it does to our daily lives.
What are interventions? They are the schemes that can be evaluated and credibly guide children away from negative influences and give them the skills, resilience and support they need, so they get the sense of belonging and respect that gangs use to lure children towards crime.
We’re not talking about a one-off assembly or a ten minute chat once a month for children at risk.
We’re talking about working closely with the police, the NHS, schools, local government, youth services, the voluntary sector and others to build an understanding of what really works, which can inform our collective response into one that is professional, highly informed and precisely targeted.
The Youth Endowment Fund will also provide deeper support for local partnerships in places with high levels of youth offending.
Right now, we are scoping what this support might look like, learning from what communities, funders, local authorities, schools and young people themselves are telling us.
We’ve already completed our first funding round and will soon award grants to groups that meet our criteria. Further funding rounds will follow. This means that whilst we are a ten-year programme, our work will begin almost immediately.
Some people might just prefer a police-led approach. We see the Youth Endowment Fund not as an alternative approach, but as a vital ingredient of the wider anti-violent crime mix.
We believe it is better to prevent vulnerable children from getting into trouble with the police in the first place. And in doing so, our job is not to find fault with vulnerable children, but to find and support interventions that really work, rather than wasting time and money on gimmicks that don’t turn lives around.
The Youth Endowment Fund will not only liberate kids and families, but take huge pressure off the criminal justice system. Nobody wants to see communities hit by crime or kids in court.
Andy Ratcliffe is CEO of the Youth Endowment Fund.