More than £40,000 is to be invested in programmes to help parents and young people as a landmark new partnership continues its work to drive down serious youth violence in Bedfordshire.

Work in schools, parental classes and outreach projects are among those being supported by Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) over the coming months.

It is part of a comprehensive package of measures being rolled out by the VERU, which is governed by Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been granted Home Office funding for a second year of VERU projects. The decline in youth violence of just under 9 per cent and the resulting 200 young people who are still alive or living without life-changing injuries are testament to its success in its first year. This unit means services are working together as never before and much of the money is going directly to work in communities, by community members, who are best placed to know what will work by way of diversion from gang membership and knife carrying,” said PCC Holloway.

The latest projects backed with VERU funding include a weekly drop-in session for young people in Luton run by radio station Diverse FM, as well as presentations at the Oakbank school in Leighton Buzzard by offenders who have turned their lives around.

Work with parents is also a major part of the latest funding. Three separate programmes have been funded to ensure coverage across Bedfordshire, with a particular focus on helping parents who had difficult upbringings themselves.

“I’m particularly pleased that one of my objectives as PCC is being realised through the VERU, reaching out directly to parents to help them with ways to establish boundaries and support them in the often difficult parenting of teenagers and younger children,” said Commissioner Holloway.

More details about these programmes are outlined below.

The VERU is also backing a number of other projects, with town councils and mayors being able to award funding to local groups who wish to provide spaces for young people such as youth clubs.

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

The VERU will also 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.

Serious youth violence fell by 9 per cent in the VERU’s first year, equivalent to around 200 fewer victims of such offences in the county.

Pathways to Success – Diverse FM – £10,000

Run by Diverse FM’s community team, this Luton-based outreach project will involve a weekly drop in session offering young people access to information, support and peer mentoring.  As part of the development of this service, Diverse FM will offer employability skills, media skills development and recreational activities, with a view to building skills and encouraging positive life choices by the young people that take part.

Uprising – One Stop Advice – £10,000 

This project will offer parental classes which build skills and resilience.  Its focus will be to provide a service whereby parents, guardians and carers are mentored to increase their ability to put measures in place to manage boundaries and protect their children from exploitation.  This project will particularly focus on building resilience within parents who, due to a lack of confidence and knowledge, would benefit from support. 

Challenging behaviour parenting workshops – Counselling Wellbeing Foundation – £10,000

The foundation will work with parents whose own lives have been impacted by social environmental factors, leasing to issues such as substance abuse or criminal offending. This project will work to improve family relationships and long-term outcomes for the children.  

Baby Faces – FACES – £10,000

The project will support people in the transitional stages of becoming parents and offer them tools and coping strategies to prevent and heal adverse childhood experiences (ACES). 

Prison Me No Way – Oakbank School – £1,500

This coeducational special school in Leighton Buzzard will run presentations to more than 100 students by Prison Me No Way, an agency which helps students via presentations from ex-prisoners who have turned their lives around. Workshops will be specifically tailored to cover county lines, gangs, drugs and violence. This programme will reach those students who are already involved in gang related behaviour and act as an early intervention for those who are vulnerable to being groomed to become involved in this type of lifestyle.

Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit is a new network to tackle the root causes of violence and end the exploitation of children and young people in the county. It aims to involve different partners such as police, local government, health, community leaders, and other key partners to prevent serious violence – especially among young people – by understanding its root causes and addressing them together.
This mirrors the successful public health approach that has been taken to tackling violent crime in Scotland.

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