VERU in View - March
Good morning everyone and thank you for taking the time to read the latest edition of VERU in View. You are reading this as we close our second year of operation, which offers a great opportunity to look back on a turbulent year for all of us, albeit one in which we made some fantastic progress.
The below is just a selection of what me and my team have accomplished over the past year:
- I was involved in a national project looking at tackling racial injustice for children in the criminal justice system, including engaging with young people to have their say. This report was recently released with the shadow justice secretary David Lammy.
- I was appointed the joint lead nationally along with Greater Manchester to lead on community engagement for violence reduction units across the country.
- Our Youth Intervention Specialist (YIS) team has received 144 referrals and is currently working with 87 children, young people and families at risk of exploitation. A full breakdown is attached.
- Organised a conference for parents and professionals to help them spot the signs of exploitation, which was attended by 200 people.
- Delivered training to more than 400 professionals working in areas such as the police, local authorities, health, probation, education, youth offending and residential care placements.
- Invested more than £150,000 and supported delivery of more than 20 community projects which have helped hundreds of people during the pandemic.
- Delivered child criminal exploitation awareness and diversionary talks to more than 600 young people across Bedfordshire.
- Developed a bespoke series of guidance documents around different forms of exploitation to be used by frontline staff across the county.
- Launched the VERU Village online directory of support services for those at risk of or experiencing exploitation.
- Led delivery of the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Rapid Strategic Needs Assessment and the Violence and Exploitation Reduction Action Plan.
- Established a data and intelligence group around violence and exploitation to better understand the local picture, drawing on information from a range of different organisations.
- Began work on specific VERU projects at HMP Bedford, with magistrates and other members of the criminal justice system, as well as for healthcare providers.
The brilliant thing is that this is genuinely only a selection of what we have accomplished, with further details of some of our more recent projects are outlined below. Considering the VERU has only been going for two years, and really only been fully staffed and up and running for little over a year, this is a remarkable set of achievements.
Practitioners and members of the public are now getting in touch with us directly through our website for help and support, which is an indicator of the huge progress we have made to establish ourselves over the past 12 months. I cannot thank my team and all our supportive partners enough for their efforts to get us to this point.
Moving forward, that partnership space is going to be our crucial area of development. Sustainability and evaluation that evidences our impact will be our key mantra for the next 12 months, ensuring that we are truly embedded across the partnership response to exploitation as well as continuing to rigorously evaluate everything that we do.
This work is already happening, with Lisa, Ade and Jon doing great work in their respective areas to lead and coordinate the pan-Bedfordshire response to exploitation. Our YIS team coordinator Tasha has also been tireless in her meetings and building relationships with partners, from sharing best practice with Somerset Council, the Northamptonshire Violence Reduction Unit and National Working Group Exploitation Response Unit, through to meeting and collaborating with Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedfordshire Police’s schools team and Amber Unit.
Our plans for our third year are with the Home Office for sign off and we look forward to sharing these with you all over the coming weeks. The key thing is that we are in a great place with some fantastic foundations – but we have so much more to do in order to tackle violence and exploitation in Bedfordshire. Thank you all for your support and I look forward to working with you over the next 12 months and continue to make a difference.
Head of the VERU
VERU Youth Voices
We are now coming to the end of our initial launch of VERU Youth Voices, which has been a resounding success in terms of giving young people a platform on the issues that matter to them. Our latest special episode in partnership with Mary Seacole is a format that we would love to continue moving forwards.
We have also teamed this with a series of interviews on Luton Urban Radio – thank you for your support! We will be looking to take this message onto community radio stations across the county moving forwards. You can catch up on all the podcast episodes on our YouTube channel or listen back to the radio interviews online.
While we will be announcing more information about our wider strategy for the next year soon, we can confirm some projects that we will be leading on in the coming weeks. We are involved in the planning and preparation for Stephen Lawrence Day on 22 April and looking at how we can use Stephen’s legacy to work with our local communities to pull together and create real, meaningful change.
We are also excited to be leading on the next Kick Off @ 3 event in Bedfordshire. Kick Off @ 3 is a really powerful project and brand which engages with young people through sport, building bridges and breaking down barriers to organisations such as the police. The last event in Bedfordshire was attended by around 300 people and ranks as one of the most successful Kick Off @ 3 events nationally. As we move out of lockdown it will be our mission to create a similarly impactful event, giving young people opportunities and harnessing it as an opportunity to raise awareness around things like child criminal exploitation and where to get help.
Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation (BAVEX)
Hopefully everyone saw earlier this month the long awaited launch of the BAVEX project, which has knitted together lots of partnership work to tackle exploitation in all its forms, from child criminal exploitation and county lines through to things like forced labour, cuckooing and the commercial sex trade.
We are proud partners of the project alongside so many other great organisations across Bedfordshire and will continue to support any and all efforts which raise awareness about exploitation among our communities.
Visit the BAVEX website for more information or to get involved.