The Mayor of London has today announced £2 million of new funding to support children and young people at risk of being exploited by criminal gangs.
With millions of Londoners being impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and low-income families in the capital being hit hardest as food and energy bills soar, the Mayor is concerned that there is now a real risk of all these factors combining and contributing to the reduction of violent crime being reversed.
As the soaring cost of living continues to impact the daily lives of Londoners, Sadiq is determined to offer young Londoners at risk of being exploited by criminal gangs a way out through his London Gang Exit Programme.
The programme, led by Safer London, provides specialist one-to-one specialist case work support and help for young Londoners aged 15 to 24. It includes specialist support to help young Londoners with employment, education, training, housing resettlement, substance misuse and emotional wellbeing as well as providing direct support to the families of those affected.
City Hall funding has already helped over 400 young people across all London boroughs leave or significantly reduce their involvement in criminal gangs.
Safer London case workers work in every London borough and meet young Londoners in places where they can feel safe, which could be in a fast-food restaurant, in a park or on a bus, where they can build strong relationships and have the confidence to speak freely about their concerns.
Between 2016 (when Sadiq was first elected) and April 2022, 430 young people received long term support through the London Gang Exit programme. Of these, 83 per cent significantly reduced their involvement with criminal gangs or ended their involvement completely.
The latest evaluation of the effectiveness of the London Gang Exit Programme by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime1 also found a significant reduction in the young people enrolled in the programme becoming victims of violence.
The Mayor’s new funding will take his total investment in the programme to over £8.2million and will boost the number of support workers working to rescue the most vulnerable young Londoners from criminal gangs.
Gang-related violence still accounts for a substantial proportion of the most serious violence in London, with more than half of shootings and nearly one quarter of homicides believed to be linked to gangs.
In 2018, the Mayor set up the first Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in England and Wales to lead an approach to tackling violence that is rooted in prevention and early intervention. London’s VRU is funding intervention coaches in police custody, A&E departments and major trauma centres in the capital’s hospitals.
They all work to deliver teachable moments in a young person’s life to help them turn their back on violence. This includes measures to support families, funding to keep young people in education, investment in the vital role played by youth workers and mentors, and support and resources for communities.
The Mayor is determined to end the criminal exploitation of young Londoners by gangs and wider criminal networks as this is a known driver of violence affecting young people in our city. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is focussed on investing in programmes to better target and respond to criminal exploitation of young people. Sadiq is also investing record sums in policing to boost the number of neighbourhood officers and help supress violence in local neighbourhoods this summer and beyond.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “I know that one-to-one support can make a huge difference in a young person’s life and mean the difference between them fulfilling their potential or being lured into the trap of violence and criminality.
“I’m proud that our London Gang Exit programme is making a real difference and has already helped hundreds of young people leave or significantly reduce their involvement in criminal gangs. That’s why I am investing even more in this programme to help tackle violence and support young Londoners at risk of exploitation as they turn their lives around.
“But gang violence still accounts for too much of the most serious violence in London and I am concerned about a potential increase in violence this summer as the cost of living crisis deepens and threatens to reverse the progress we have made in tackling violent crime. Violence, like poverty, is not inevitable and the Government must now do much more to show it shares my commitment to building a fairer, safer London for all.”
Sherry Peck, CEO Safer London added, “It’s important to understand many young Londoners are growing up in incredibly toxic environments, which makes them more susceptible to violence and exploitation. We also know through our experience that young Londoners feel let down and judged, not only by professionals but by wider society.
“The Safer London team adopt a non-judgemental approach with every young Londoner they work with. When a child or a young person comes to Safer London, they are just that – a child or a young person. We don’t judge them, and we certainly never criminalise them.
“Our goal is to work alongside them and make sure they are safeguarded from harm, as well as provide them access to opportunities which will allow them to move onto to have positive futures.
“We do this by delivering our interventions directly in the community, taking our support to wherever the young Londoner needs it and where is safe to do so. Whether this be in an education setting, in a café or in the local park. By doing this we can build strong relationships which set the core foundation of our support and allow young Londoners to achieve success.
“This work and our achievements over the past six years would not have been possible without support from the Mayor of London. We are grateful we can continue to work in partnership and help more young Londoners to reach their full potential.”