Good morning and thank you for taking the time to read our VERU in View newsletter. I feel an enormous sense of pride at the various projects and programmes outlined in this month’s edition, which are the culmination of months of hard work by so many of our supremely talented VERU team working alongside our partners.
This week we can only really start in one place, with the news that we have secured funding to enable us to carry on our vital work for at least another 12 months, subject to our proposals being ratified by the Home Office.
This is yet another huge endorsement of our achievements in the VERU. The feedback we have had from national leaders in the serious youth violence space has been consistently positive, and it is great news that we have been backed to continue this for a further year.
You can read the full announcement on our website, but we are so grateful to so many people for their support in getting us to this point. Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway undoubtedly deserves so much of this praise, and she could not have said it better than this quote: “Gang violence and exploitation have continued to fall over the past year in Bedfordshire and the specialist VERU has played a massive part in this.”
Every element of our tight knit VERU team has played their part. The work of our youth intervention specialists Sheldon, Roseann, Draz and Demi, all under the stewardship of Tasha, continues to inspire and humble me every single day. This team is genuinely making a difference to people’s lives across Bedfordshire, helping young and vulnerable people escape exploitation and turn their lives around. A summary of their work over the past year is attached.
I am privileged to work alongside them and I get positive emails praising their work on an almost daily basis. You can find out more about the team and make a referral through our website.
The VERU is much more than just the YIS team, though. Our Exploitation lead Lisa has pulled together the hugely impressive Violence and Exploitation Reduction Strategy for Bedfordshire Action Plan, mapping out the response and actions that every agency in Bedfordshire should deliver to ensure we are tackling these issues in the most effective and consistent way possible.
Our lead analyst Ade is doing similar work in the analytical space by working with different agencies to truly understand the nature of these issues, while our comms lead Jon is coordinating work in this area through the Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation project.
This is all without mentioning the huge support provided by Dee, who has overseen the awarding of grant funding to dozens of community projects this year, as well as Benita, whose design and analytical skills are invaluable to the unit. Each and every one of the team has played their part and I am incredibly proud to head up such a talented group of people.
I was really honoured to be asked to present at a recent Four Nations webinar looking at taking a public health approach in policing, an approach encompassed by our work in the VERU. It has also been great to catch up with so many of our community projects, who are continuing to deliver some fantastic results and alter their delivery methods during lockdown.
As you can see over this newsletter, we are on the cusp of an incredibly busy and productive few weeks for the VERU, with many of our longer term projects coming to fruition. I really hope you all can support us in all this work and continue to give our partners and communities the tools they need to combat violence and exploitation.
Head of the VERU
The whole VERU team is really excited to see our ‘Exploitation through the lens of parents’ virtual conference is now just days away.
The conference will be held online on Thursday (25 February) from 9.30am to 3.30pm and is aimed at those who work with young people across Bedfordshire, as well as parents and/or carers, who may have concerns and want to learn more about spotting the signs of exploitation.
As well as inputs from our youth intervention specialists, the conference will also hear from the National Working Group Exploitation Response Unit, SPACE, Link to Change and FACES, as well as parents who have been affected by exploitation.
The conference will explore the impact of exploitation within the family, missed opportunities, inclusion of parents and contextual safeguarding.
The event is free and open to everyone with an interest in this area. For more information or to sign up to attend please visit our website.
VERU Youth Voices
Young people from across Bedfordshire have been given a platform to have their say about violence and exploitation as part of a new project led by our YIS team.
The new VERU Youth Voices podcast will feature young people from Barnfield and Central Bedfordshire College in discussion with leading professionals who are working to protect and support young people in the county.
A podcast will be recorded every fortnight between now and the end of March and be available on our YouTube channel.
The first podcast, which is due to be released over the coming days, featured the young people in conversation with members of the VERU’s YIS team.
Future podcasts are set to feature discussions around young people’s mental health, rights and opportunities, as well as launching the VERU’s youth panel.
VERU staff and partners will also be appearing in a number of interviews on Luton Urban Radio over the coming weeks to promote the project.
The VERU Village is a longstanding ambition of our team to create a youth and community led series of digital hubs which can offer help and support to children, young people and families.
We are so excited to see this digital one stop shop for support start to take shape. The VERU Village homepage is now up and running, while help and support is now outlined on our VERU Family and VERU Frontline pages in a clear and accessible way.
Please get in touch if you would like to be listed on the Village or have any suggestions or ideas for how we can really bring this project to life. And please use the #VERUVillage hashtag on social media!
In April we are looking forward to our friends Stepping Stones launching specific training around girls and gangs in Bedfordshire. Please contact us for more information around dates and how to secure your place.
The Modern Slavery Helpline has organised a series of webinars over the coming weeks to explore modern slavery in Bedfordshire.
25 February – focus on Statutory Agencies
The guest speaker is Emma Turner of Azalea, who will give an insight into what Azalea does, the challenges they encounter and how collaborative working can improve the overall outcomes for victims of exploitation.
3 March – focus on Businesses
The guest speaker is Adam Whitfield of Achilles, who will give an insight into modern slavery and the trends around labour abuse and exploitation highlighted through auditing businesses.
17 March – General sweep up session
We will share the insights from all the key note speakers of the previous webinars.
Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit
Email – VERU @bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk