VERU in View - February
Good morning everyone and welcome to this month’s edition of our VERU in View newsletter. As you may have seen elsewhere, we have some big changes to update you on in terms of our staffing.
Over the past two years we have developed the VERU into a nationally recognised violence reduction unit made up of some hugely talented and passionate individuals, which I have been incredibly proud to lead.
However, the downside of this burgeoning reputation is that our people are often sought after for important and nationally significant work.
Although I am sad to be leaving, this is only a temporary position and I will continue to provide strategic oversight to the VERU.
The VERU continues to benefit from the leadership of other hugely committed individuals working across our county, who all share the same passion to support young people. The VERU’s mission continued unabated.
Lisa Robinson, our exploitation lead, will be taking on the role as head of the VERU on a part time basis for the period of my secondment. Lisa has done a fantastic job over a number of years now in coordinating the response here in Bedfordshire around child sexual exploitation, and other forms of the exploitation of children more recently through her work with the VERU.
Her reputation among our partner agencies in particular is second to none and I have no doubt she will continue to do brilliant work in her new role.
Lisa does a hugely important role already and we have also recruited others to support her work in this area while she takes on additional responsibility.
Debbie Hearne, our education specialist, and Jon Vale, our head of communications and engagement, will be taking on some of the tasks in this area and supporting Lisa further over the next few months.
I am also delighted to welcome a new member of the VERU team this week as Chantelle Olaiya joins us as a dedicated communications and engagement officer, a crucial role that we will look to maximise over the coming months.
While we are awaiting an announcement on further VERU funding for next year, I am confident that the VERU in Bedfordshire will be funded for at least another 12 months. We will be sure to update people on this announcement and our future plans as soon as we have any news,
In the meantime, I know everyone in the VERU team will appreciate your support during this transition, as we continue to do everything in our power to keep children in Bedfordshire safe.
Our community projects are a massive part of what we do. This year the VERU has invested around £300,000 in 24 projects across the county, all of which are providing safe spaces for young people and reducing the risk of exploitation.
Thank you to all these projects for the work you do. I know many of you are starting to prepare evaluation reports for your work over the past 12 months, which we will share when we have them. You can view all our VERU-funded projects on our website.
Last week saw the launch of the Tackling Reducing and Ending Exploitation (TREE) project in Shefford and Biggleswade, as part of the rollout of this pioneering scheme across Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.
Youth, charity workers and police officers conducted joint outreach work across the area to engage with young people and the wider community, as well as signposting people to support services. The ad van that accompanied the team also helped generate a bit of a buzz!
The TREE project replicates a successful approach that has been pioneered by the targeted youth service at Luton Council.
The project in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire is being led by the Bedfordshire Youth Offending Service, part of both Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils, and funded by the VERU.
The project will be out in Bedford later this week, with the full list of dates below.
The TREE project epitomises the good work and approach that has become the hallmark of the VERU.
This project is getting people out directly into communities to make a difference and engage with young people who might be impacted by things like child criminal exploitation.
This face to face interaction is undoubtedly the best way to make an impact on a child’s life and show them that a better path and a brighter future is possible.
Plus, our VERU Village mantra makes clear that we cannot solve these issues on our own. It takes lots of different agencies, charities and communities to protect young people, which is why I am so glad to see so much partnership support and buy in for the TREE project in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.
31 January – Shefford and Biggleswade
10 February – Bedford
16 February – Leighton Buzzard
21 February – Shefford and Biggleswade
3 March – Bedford
9 March – Leighton Buzzard
14 March – Shefford and Biggleswade
24 March – Bedford
30 March – Leighton Buzzard
The Mary Seacole housing association in Luton is one of our closest partners. They do some fantastic work with young people and this year we have been proud with them on a range of projects, from their barbering academy through to our VERU Youth Voices podcasts.
They have had an amazing impact over the past 12 months, which is outlined in their absolutely brilliant annual report. Please do check it out – we’ll definitely be stealing some of these ideas!
UpRising leadership programme
The Bedfordshire Leadership Programme by charity UpRising is completely free and open to anyone aged 18-25 who lives, works or studies in Bedford Borough.
The programme will run from late February to July. Sessions will be held weekly on a Thursday evening until May.
Weekly sessions will be accessed online with some in person events (restrictions allowing).
Participants will be introduced to local changemakers; learn how to create and run their own social action campaign; have access to employability skills workshops and monthly masterclasses from May.
Child sexual exploitation report
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse last week published a hallmark report following their investigation into child sexual abuse across a number of areas across the county.
The report flags a series of recommendations and suggestions to improve the response to these issues in local areas, which we will look to explore further in a webinar for professionals here in Bedfordshire over the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I would encourage you to read the report in full.
Have your say on male violence against women and girls
Bedfordshire Police is asking for the views of women and girls in the county on personal safety.
The results of the survey will help inform how the force tackles safety concerns affecting women and girls moving forward.
Please take the short survey today – it won’t take more than five minutes to complete – and share it with your networks.
- The exploitation guidance documents on our website are excellent guides to responding to exploitation, which follow the approved processes we have in Bedfordshire to responding to all forms of exploitation.
- This includes the multi-agency information submission form. Please – if you have concerns about someone you know or work with, fill out one of these forms and ensure these concerns are passed on to the right people who can make a difference.
- There are specialist drug and alcohol support services available for young people in Bedfordshire.
- Bedford / Central Bedfordshire – Aquarius – Email YPBedfordshire@aquarius.org.uk – Call 0300 008 3925 – Call/Text/Whatsapp 07467 336203
- Luton – ResoLUTiONs – Call 0800 054 6603 – Email firstname.lastname@example.org – Visit resolutions4luton.org