VERU in View - July

Good morning and thank you for taking the time to read the latest edition of VERU in View. Pulling this together has been a humbling reminder of just what a big impact the VERU has made in a relatively short period of time.

The past few weeks alone have been phenomenal in terms of delivery. This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the latest venture by the Hope Collective, a campaign shining a light on the positive contributions of young people.

The project is supported by the likes of the Damilola Taylor Trust, Rio Ferdinand Foundation, Paul Canoville Foundation and UK Youth.

Saturday’s event saw young people have their say on poverty and inequality, as well as coming up with potential solutions. Future events are due to consider other topics that affect young people. We were there alongside two other violence reduction units (VRUs) from across the country, as well as youth crime charity Fearless and whole host of other organisations working to improve the prospects of young people.

Images from the Hope Collective event

Then on Sunday, myself and Dee Bailey from my team were up and about early to accompany two Bedfordshire football teams to the Kick Off At 3 tournament in South London. We had worked for weeks alongside our #VERUVillage Community Panel, which includes the likes of Active Luton, Boxing Saves Lives, Bedfordshire Police and the Luton Town Football Club Community Trust to send teams from Luton All Star Lionesses and Inspire Athletic FC.

The day itself was an inspiring reminder of the power of sport to bring people from different background and communities together. Teams came from as far away as Cardiff and Plymouth, and the sense of achievement I saw on the faces of our Bedfordshire young people during and after the event is what all of us working in these spaces with young people strive to achieve every day.

The wider VERU team has also been busy. Tasha Case and the rest of our youth intervention specialists (YIS) have significantly stepped up their education inputs, delivering to some 651 people at Bedford Academy last week. This follows other presentations at Academy Central Bedfordshire, Barnfield College, Lincroft Academy and Mary Seacole since June, which reached a combined 1,046 people. This is all without mentioning the direct referrals the team is working with: the YIS team currently has 83 open referrals, having received 188 different referrals in total since being set up.

A virtual assembly led by the VERU

Putting young people at the heart of what we do is key to our work. From our VERU Youth Voices podcasts to our Road of Freedom mural, we now have a wealth of evidence where we have given a voice and opportunity to young people, as it is they who know best about what will help young people stay safe and thrive.

Direct VERU interventions and commissioned projects have reached thousands of young people and made a huge difference to countless lives and families, while we are proud supporters of the work of the likes of the Bedfordshire Police Education and Diversion team, with who we work increasingly closely, as well as youth offending services. You can read a round up of some of the most recent prevention work taking place across Bedfordshire by all these different agencies on our website.

This round up includes the Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation (BAVEX) webinar last week, which our comms team organised and our Exploitation lead Lisa Robinson was a superb contributor to. The event had 241 people watching live at its busiest time and the video has since been viewed more than 10,000 times.

A screenshot from a webinar on Bedfordshire Police's Facebook page

This is yet another innovative way we are trying to get the word out and raise awareness, with joint BAVEX and VERU advertising having gone out recently on platforms like Mumsnet, Snapchat, Spotify and Instagram, as well as posters and digital displays at The Mall in Luton. All of this has helped drive 614 visits to a campaign landing page on our website over the past four weeks, with a further 352 visits to a landing page on the BAVEX website over the same timeframe.

This is all amazing, amazing work – with even more exciting work to come over the coming weeks. We are beavering away on the relaunch of our VERU Village, with projects such as training for frontline A&E staff due to be rolled out soon, while our independent evaluation report is also due to be published in a matter of days. While I cannot say too much, I am looking forward to sharing these results with all those in our VERU Village and the wider community.

As always – the above is merely a snapshot of what the VERU has been up to and achieved. I remain extremely proud of the hard work and contributions of all my team, and thank you to everyone for your support.

Kimberley Lamb

Head of the VERU

Veru in view

Job opportunity

Could you be the voice of the VERU?

We are looking to appoint a communications and engagement officer to drive forward and support the VERU’s vision, mission and narrative.

From press releases and social media through to presentations, stakeholder engagement and our website – you will be responsible for shaping all of the VERU’s external brand and presence, as well as delivering the communications products and campaigns that can reach young people and show them a brighter future.

The role is initially being offered on a full-time basis on a 12 month fixed term contract. Any successful candidate would be subject to vetting.

Sound good? The job advert should go live in a matter of days, but to have an informal discussion about the role in the meantime please email our communications team.

For now – you can access a whole host of VERU and BAVEX marketing materials via the Our Campaign page on the BAVEX website.

The front of a leaflet advertising the VERU, which is available to download

Working with our partners

Lisa and I have been especially working with partners on both a local and national level. She has been driving forward joint work here in Bedfordshire with the Independent Child Trafficking Guardianship Service, a programme between Barnardo’s and the National Counter Trafficking Service. The service offers advice, guidance and support for children who have been trafficked and exploited by modern slavery. 

Lisa has also been instrumental in organising forthcoming briefings for practitioners here in Bedfordshire. She has organised for any and all practitioners in Bedfordshire to attend briefings that will cover the guardianship service mentioned above, the multi-agency information submission form as well as the serious and organised crime threat in Bedfordshire. These events take place in September, October and November.

Lisa has also worked alongside the NWG Exploitation Response Unit (NWG) on ‘Mind Your Language’ briefings for Bedfordshire practitioners in the same months. This free webinar will explore victim blaming language and terminology used around the exploitation of children, young people and young adults, including among professionals. 

In addition, Lisa also met with Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza this month, to bring her up to speed with all the work the VERU is doing and highlight what support our young people here in Bedfordshire need around things like serious youth violence and mental health. Dame Rachel has really strong links to Bedfordshire and is a former headteacher in the county, so it is fantastic to have such an influential voice fighting our corner at the highest levels of government.

It was also heartening to hear from Lisa that she was already aware of some of the work we are doing here in Bedfordshire thanks to the policing minister, who I meet with regularly and I know is impressed by the work we are doing. This month I presented at a national VRU conference on our engagement with communities, an area we are the joint leads on nationally, and I will continue to drive forward that national profile for the VERU and ensure we are shaping those important conversations among policy makers.

A leaflet advertising mind your language briefings
A leaflet advertising our next BAVEX briefings

Analyst update

Our public health analyst Ade Abitoye has also been extremely busy over the past month or so. He continues to chair and lead the work of the Data & Intelligence Group for Violence & Exploitation Reduction in Bedfordshire (DIGVERB). This group is working to pool data from a whole host different agencies, to ensure we have the complete picture around violence and exploitation in Bedfordshire.

This will all feed into a child exploitation needs assessment due to be pulled together by the VERU. I am so grateful for the support of so many of our partners with this process so far, and look forward to this work getting underway soon.

Elsewhere, Ade has been working with the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit regarding their integrated data infrastructure, as well as holding meetings with the youth endowment fund to see how we can work more closely together. All of this is vital work so thank you Ade – the VERU would not be the same without you!

Events and support

As we enter the summer holidays, it is important that professionals, parents and young people know the full range of support that is available to them.

We will soon be collating a number of different services onto our VERU Village pages, but below you can find a summary of just a snapshot of some of this invaluable work and support.

  • The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner has announced a whole host of diversion and early intervention projects that are being funded – you can find a full list on their website.
  • The PCC has also funded the summer of fun and focus programme, free classes to teach young people boxing and martial arts – visit the PCC website for locations and more information.
  • UpRising, a youth leadership and employability organisation, is offering a four week employability Stand Out programme. The Stand Out programme combines an intensive daily month-long online curriculum with up to 12 months of mentoring for each participant, designed to help young people stand out in a competitive job market. From online socials to resilience workshops, it has everything young people need to find a job, develop their skills and make new friends. For further information, please visit the Stand Out website.
  • Tokko is running M.O.V.E. fitness challenge for teenagers this Friday and Saturday in People’s Park, Luton.
  • The Bedford Blues Foundations is running sports programmes across Central Bedfordshire throughout August. For more information visit their website.
  • Grand Union will be running its Elevate 2021 summer activity programme in Shefford for children and young people aged eight to 17 years old. Contact Nicola King for more information.
  • The Aquarius drugs service for young people has launched its ‘Spot Your Mate, Make Summer Great’ campaign. Visit the Aquarius website for more details.
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