Action on violence needed as youth are 'failed in the most devastating way', MP committee say

31 July 2019, 00:57 | Updated: 31 July 2019, 04:25

Significant action is required to stop young people "being failed in the most devastating way" and "losing their lives" because of serious violence, MPs have said.

A damning new report from the Home Affairs Committee slams the government's existing Serious Violence Strategy, calling it "completely inadequate".

The cross-party committee calls for the establishment of a new youth service guarantee as part of "major" investment in local youth services and prevention work.

The guarantee would include "the introduction of a fully-funded, statutory minimum of provision for youth outreach workers and community youth projects in all areas, co-designed with local young people", according to a statement from the committee. It is envisaged it would include additional resources in areas with higher risk of serious youth violence.

The MPs also call for "stronger focus, leadership and direction" from both the prime minister and the wider government, suggesting establishing local leaders who would be accountable to their region and report to the PM.

As well as more resources for police and 'at risk' schools to have dedicated officers assigned, the committee suggest the number of school exclusions should be cut.

The recommendations also state that "urgent action" is needed to tackle county lines, the practise of criminals grooming children to sell drugs.

Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs committee, said: "Teenagers are dying on our streets, and yet our inquiry has found that the government’s response to the rise in serious youth violence is completely inadequate. They just haven’t risen to the scale of the problem."

She continued: "The Home Office has shamefully taken a hands-off approach to this crisis, but it is a national emergency and must be treated like one. They need to get a grip.

:: London mayor Sadiq Khan brands fatal stabbings 'human cost of austerity'

“Serious violence has got worse after a perfect storm of youth service cuts, police cuts, more children being excluded from school and a failure of statutory agencies to keep them safe. The government has a responsibility to deal with this crisis urgently."

In Britain, knife offences have risen by more than 70% over the last five years, while the number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries rose by a third between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

The last five years have also seen homicides increase by a third.

Speaking to Sky News, Caroline Shearer, the founder of Only Cowards Carry Weapons Awareness charity, said: "[Knife crime] is a disease now, it's an absolute disease. It's being buried by Brexit continuously. The government are so consumed by Brexit, [while] our kids on our streets are dying."

She founded the charity after her son was fatally stabbed when a party he was at was gatecrashed.

She argues that children and teenagers at risk or already involved in knife crime "need to be put in a specialised unit, where their mental health can be assessed, their home life assessed by social workers and get to the deep route causes".

She adds: "Then we have perhaps youth wardens and if they see kids roaming around that should be in the unit because if they're not at school then they should be, no excuses, they take them there.

"We've got to try now to start putting our foot down as adults."