Following the successful reduction in youth violence in Bedfordshire by 9 percent in the year to March 2020, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, is opening up her second fund for community projects.

The project is aimed at tackling gang crime and knife carrying, after the Home Office agreed to pay for the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) once more. 

The VERU, which is run by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and which has attracted government funding of £880,000 once more, has identified a number of key projects which different groups and services can bid to deliver. They are: 

  • Work with expectant mothers and fathers to build parenting skills
  • Projects with ex-offenders to help them break the pattern of gang membership and violence
  • Intervention in hospital and afterwards to help prevent today’s victims becoming tomorrow’s perpetrators of violence
  • Providing plans and one to one follow up support for young people in custody when they have been exposed to violence to divert them from future crime
  • Schemes which provide the protection young people need within close relationships. The VERU will welcome bids from the community which address adverse childhood experiences, such as improved health schemes and ensuring healthy mentoring relationships and which can provide role models of similar ages       
  • Projects which can help protect young people and prevent violence from happening. This particularly includes bids from the community for physical locations such as community spaces that young people could consider safe spaces, or making them safer and better secured

These are just some of the new projects that will be backed by Bedfordshire’s £880,000 VERU, which the Home Office this week confirmed to PCC Holloway will be funded for a further 12 months.

“Last year the evidence shows that 200 fewer young people in Bedfordshire lost their lives and avoided life-changing injuries as a result of youth violence. I want to build on this progress and fund ideas from communities that have been most exposed to gang violence and knife carrying themselves as they are best placed to know what is likely to chime with their own young people. 

“If we haven’t been able to stop the violence in the first place, I want us to be able to reach out to them in the ‘teachable moment’ after an incident, in hospital, and for NHS staff to be able to work with us and specialist counsellors to provide them with help as victims today sadly often become perpetrators tomorrow in a cycle of revenge violence, if we don’t intervene and get this right,” said PCC Holloway.

The VERU will be funding training for hospital staff to recognise the signs of vulnerable and exploited young people when they attend with injuries or trauma relating to serious violence. Commissioner Holloway is also looking to find services to provide follow up help for victims of these crimes and the earliest possible intervention.

“I’d be very interested indeed in taking forward an idea with our health providers of working with young parents-to-be in hotspots of youth violence to support their parenting even before it’s begun and also to do further work with those who’ve already been offenders to help shape a different vision of what their futures could be,” said Commissioner Holloway.

A specific project will be carrying out education and skills training in prisons, with further funding allocated to the county’s Community Safety Partnerships and youth offending services.

“I want us to focus on schemes that divert young people from harmful activities, build better relationships in their own homes and provide young people with examples of others of their own age who are following a more productive and safer path. 

“VERU community projects last year engaged with more than 12,000 people and had a huge impact with fantastic results to reduce serious youth violence. This was just the beginning and the new funding allows us to build on this success and go further still with the active help of our communities,” said PCC Holloway.

As part of the funding, £29,000 will be made available to town and parish councils to bid for a maximum of £5,000 to improve locations, safe spaces and activities for young people, with the ambition of deterring them from unsafe spaces.

This could be a bid to further develop and refurbish current sites such as toilet facilities, lighting and security.Further details about the grant process and how to apply are available on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website under the Campaigns & Funding section. All bids must be submitted by 5pm Monday 8 June.

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