ABOUT US

ABOUT US

WHO WE ARE

Tackling violence and the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people in Bedfordshire is absolutely crucial work that no person, group or organisation can solve on their own.

That is why the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) is potentially so pioneering and important. With funding from the Home Office the VERU has the financial backing as well as the energy and will of people across the county to succeed.

WHO WE ARE

Tackling violence and the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people in Bedfordshire is absolutely crucial work that no person, group or organisation can solve on their own.

That is why the county’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) is potentially so pioneering and important. With funding from the Home Office the VERU has the financial backing as well as the energy and will of people across the county to succeed.

OUR WORK

During 2019 to 2020 Bedfordshire VERU worked in partnership to with numerous organisations across the county to deliver a wide range of community projects supporting young people. 

Below is an infographic detailing the activities of Bedfordshire VERU.  

OUR WORK

During 2019 to 2020 Bedfordshire VERU worked in partnership to with numerous organisations across the county to deliver a wide range of community projects supporting young people. 

Below is an infographic detailing the activities of Bedfordshire VERU.  

OUR TEAM

OUR PURPOSE

Our overall goals is to prevent violence and exploitation, reduce the harm caused and thus improve the health and wellbeing of communities across Bedfordshire.

In our first six months our team of youth intervention specialists worked directly with more than 40 young people from across the county. We also funded more than 40 projects run by statutory services and grassroots groups, which between them engaged with more than 12,000 children and young people in Bedfordshire

OUR TEAM

As VERU Director I am responsible for the strategic and organisational coordination needed to achieve long term sustainable change around violent crime and exploitation in Bedfordshire, by developing practices, policies and innovative approaches.

I am an experienced youth justice professional with extensive knowledge of inter-agency working and strategic partnerships – specialising in helping to build thriving communities.

I have more than 30 years’ experience of working in education, the criminal justice system, the third sector and private corporations, with the last 20 years spent in managerial positions, with a specific and targeted focus on supporting vulnerable and marginalised communities.

Since creating the VERU from a standing start in 2019, I have ensured that I continue to utilise the complimentary skills and experiences that I gleaned from other positions such as my previous roles as Head of Victim Services for Bedfordshire Police, Vice Chair of Bedfordshire’s Community Stop and Search Scrutiny Panel and most recently worked as a delivery lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), developing the national policing strategy for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). I am currently Chair of Governors for a Bedfordshire school and a Workstream Lead for Bedfordshire Police’s Race Action Plan.

Having previously worked with Kimberley on grant bids and Home Office returns when the VERU was initially formed, I am thrilled to now be taking on a more active role as VERU Manager.

I am thoroughly looking forward to working with the team as we work reduce violence and exploitation while and seeing our commissioned services and organisations thrive.

During my 30-year career as a police officer for Bedfordshire Police, I was deployed across many roles including Neighbourhood policing and Intelligence directorate.

After retirement, I joined the OPCC where I developed the role of Project manager for Police and Public contact, managing and developing projects including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). I have worked extensively with local authorities, other Emergency Services, the NHS, local charities and organisations.

I joined the VERU in 2020 as Business Support Administrator and a month later we were in Lockdown! Two years on, I am now PA to the VERU Director and Manager.

In addition to my role within in the VERU, I founded Simply Deez Events CIC. Through my organisation and work as a community champion, I am a radio talk show presenter, event host and facilitator.

One of my proudest achievements to date is being lead author of ‘Life Inna Lockdown 2020: Behind Closed Doors’ and, ‘Life Outta Lockdown 2021: Beyond Closed Doors’. A book that captures a six-week snapshot of the lives of 21 women through journals, stories, and poetry.

Passionate about people and following my vocation to make a difference, I was previously parent governor for 7 years.

Through my community efforts I was awarded the Mayor of Luton Certificate of Appreciation to the Community in 2021 and Mayor of Houghton Regis Certificate of Outstanding Contribution to the Community in 2022.

An amateur gardener, with a love for theatre and supporting community events, I have an explosion of enthusiasm and always apply a unique outlook on life.

After joining the VERU in 2019 as Youth Intervention Specialist Team Coordinator, I am excited to now be leading the Community and Engagement strand of our work – supporting our commissioned projects and increasing our reach in the community.

I am an adept safeguarding lead with over 15 years’ experience in working in a pastoral environment, promoting the well-being of young people and vulnerable adults. I have a background in building strong relationships with diverse multi-cultural groups.

Experienced team leader, staff trainer, workshop facilitator and events/project manager. Worked in partnership with several educational and Alternative Provisions. Extensive knowledge around school exclusion processes and a voluntary member of several community and national panels.

My previous work includes being a member of the Stop and Search Scrutiny Panel and working in partnership with Bedfordshire Police to set up the first hate crime reporting centre in further education. I was nominated in 2019 for the Bedfordshire Police Community Cohesion Awards for opening doors in education and fostering better partnership work with the force.

Jonathan Vale the head of communications and engagement for Bedfordshire VERU

I am proud to oversee the communications for the Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, alongside other similar roles for Bedfordshire Police, the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit.

I am especially proud of my work devising and launching the Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation campaign, the multi-agency campaign to tackle all forms of exploitation linked to organised crime in the county.

Tackling the exploitation of vulnerable people by organised crime is my greatest professional passion and I know everybody working in the VERU shares this passion to make a difference.

Prior to working in communications, I was a political journalist, where I specialised in issues of social justice such as the welfare system.

I joined the VERU in 2022 as Youth Intervention Specialist Team Coordinator, leading on our intervention work and one to one support. I am excited to join the multi-agency approach to help tackle grooming and exploitation with the aim to create a safer community.

Prior to this role I achieved a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Bedfordshire and went on to work as a Designated Safeguarding Lead. I have just under 10 years’ experience working in statutory and non-statutory settings across Bedfordshire, supporting Local Authority, Education and Sexual Health sectors.

I am passionate about working in the community, my journey has enabled me to collaborate with a broad scope of people from children to adults. I take pride in my ability to form effective professional relationships with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.

I have an excellent understanding of the issues faced in our community, supporting people who have been victim of exploitation and grooming, Female Genital Mutilation, domestic abuse and neglect.

I joined the VERU in 2020 and it has truly been an amazing journey so far.

I came into the role of Youth Intervention Specialist after my son Azaan Kaleem was murdered in 2018. After he died, I travelled across the country in prisons, school settings and more, raising awareness of knife crime and serious violence in a voluntary capacity. This gave me fantastic opportunities including meeting former Prime Minister, Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street and even attending Parliament. Ultimately, this work was noticed by VERU partners, Bedfordshire Police, which led to me being offered a post in the VERU.

As a parent who has lost a child due to serious violence, this role has given me an inside look at how all our partners work together to keep our young people safe. For me, this gives great comfort and hope that things will get better, but most of all, as a professional in the field, I have the privilege of being part of that progression, sharing both my lived expertise and professional expertise.

Prior to the loss of my son and joining the VERU, I worked in a Residential Rehabilitation Centre in Luton which specialised in addictions. I feel that my previous role as a support worker has had a positive impact on my role as a Youth Intervention Specialist, as alcohol and drugs can often play a huge part in the lives of some of the young people and parents that I work with.

Having both professional and personal experience enables me to reach young people from a position that other may not be able to, bridging gaps and building trust that has allowed me to help them make positive changes in their lives.

Founder of Gangsline, I have been a consultant for the VERU since 2020, using my lived experience to provide a unique intervention and prevention workshops and one to one support to both young people and frontline professionals.

In the late 70s and 80, I was gang leader in Southeast London in which I saw several my associates violently killed. Through mentorship from Bernie Grant, Jesse Jackson and Diane Abbot, I founded Gangsline, which has directly engaged with over 15,000 individual gang members throughout the UK over the last 20 years

Due to the lived experience of the Gangsline team, gang members and those on the peripheral of gang activity can often relate to our specialists’ workers, making our gangs prevention workshops for schools and gangs training for frontline professionals unique.

Gangsline’s ability to influence behaviour and demonstrate a new and innovative way of engaging gang members with a no-nonsense hard-hitting, but honest approach, has a proven track record bringing positive change.

Amongst a number of other skills, accreditations and accolades, I am a trained mediator, supporting with negotiations between rival gangs. In 2011, Gangsline intervened and mediated between 38 gang members and stopped several high-profile revenge shootings from taking place during one of most violent spells in East London.

I joined the VERU as Communications and Engagement Lead in 2022. It has been an incredibly insightful experience and I truly count it a privilege to be apart of an organisation that is championing positive change and impact in the lives of young people in Bedfordshire.

An unconventional route into this field, I am a qualified chef with almost 10 years’ experience working in a wide range of establishments of varying standards including 5-star hotels and 2 Rosette restaurants. Whilst working in Banqueting and Events at the House of Commons and attending university, I successfully applied for a one-year internship in West Palm Beach, FL where I worked as a waitress in a prestigious private members country club.

After returning to the UK and graduating with a First Class Honours in Hospitality and Business Management, I decided to start my own cake company which, over time, developed into an all-round food business. During this time, I utilised social media to grow my business which led me to making the shift into marketing and communications. I gained my first role in the industry in 2019 as Lead Marketing and Communications Officer for a charitable social enterprise.

Aside from my time in hospitality, my previous roles include being a Youth Support Worker and Event Steward.

Since joining the VERU in 2021 as Education Consultant and Special Projects, I have been working with referred young people and on projects in liaison with the OPPC.

Alongside my consultancy work, I have worked as Head of the Careers Department at Challney High School for Boys since 2010, and in 2011 I held the position of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) Manager at Cambridge University, obtaining the Qualify in Careers Standard three times whilst in post. I became the school lead for personal, social, and health education (PSHE) in 2016 and achieved the Health and Well-being Bronze Award from Public Health for my work there.

Challney High School for Boys are used as a case study by Public Health for their work on KS4 Religious Studies Education. In 2017 I became a Specialist Leader in Education for CEIAG and More Able.  Prior to this I had a successful career in business. My roles have included Sales and Marketing Director, and Project Manager.

My consultancy work with the VERU began in 2022, during this time I have supported with the review of the unit’s strategic response, Child Exploitation Tool, Practitioners Guidance, YIS Team and quality assurance processes.

As a freelance consultant, trainer and Regulation 44 independent visitor, I am an experienced social worker. Over the last 14 years I have worked with children, adults and families across the voluntary, private and public sector in various front line and management roles.

During the last 5 years I led on the strategic and operational response to exploited and missing children, including serious violence, gangs and organised crime groups. I have supported Local Authorities to develop their contextual safeguarding response and partnership working.

Data Scientist

I lead the data and analytics function for the VERU. Since I joined in 2020, I have worked on producing VERU-led needs assessments, such as the Strategic Needs Assessment (SNA) mandated by the Home Office.

I founded and currently chair the multi-service DIGVERB (Data and Intelligence Group on Violence and Exploitation Reduction in Bedfordshire). DIGVERB principally aims to: adopt a multi-partner collaborative approach in data/analytics; improve data and information sharing; and create Common Recognised Information Pictures (CRIP) for mobilising effective interventions.

I am a Data Scientist with a background in Biomedical Science and Public Health. With a master’s degree in Data Science (among other degrees), I have a strong interest and experience in the intersection of science, data, statistics and computing technology and its application to the real world.

I have significant work experience of extracting actionable insights from all types of data and leading data teams in multiple settings.

FACTS & FIGURES

A teenage girl sitting on a street path

Bedfordshire was one of 18 areas across the country identified as having a particular problem with gun, gang and knife crime. The Government awarded different groups in these areas funding to take a public health approach to tackling the root causes of these issues.

The VERU’s work in its first six months helped reduce the number of serious youth violence incidents by around 9 per cent compared to the same period in 2018/19. The VERU has subsequently been awarded a further £880,000 to continue its work for another year.

FACTS & FIGURES

A teenage girl sitting on a street path

Bedfordshire was one of 18 areas across the country identified as having a particular problem with gun, gang and knife crime. The Government awarded different groups in these areas funding to take a public health approach to tackling the root causes of these issues.

The VERU’s work in its first six months helped reduce the number of serious youth violence incidents by around 7 per cent compared to the same period in 2018/19. The VERU has subsequently been awarded a further £880,000 to continue its work for another year.

1
COMMUNITY PROJECTS FUNDED
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PEOPLE REACHED
1
POUNDS INVESTED IN PROJECTS

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