The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced his Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has invested an additional £2.1m to embed custody intervention coaches in all 12 Basic Command Units of the Met Police to divert and support more young people away from violence.
The VRU is boosting capacity so that specially-trained youth workers are based in custody suites across all 12 BCUs offering support for young people from 10 right through to 25.
New investment announced today builds on the ENGAGE programme, which involves custody intervention coaches working specifically with young people aged 10-18. It means the VRU has boosted coverage of the programme from seven BCUs (Camden, Croydon Enfield, Harrow, Lambeth, Lewisham and Redbridge) to a further five this summer, in:
- Either Newham or Waltham Forest (North East BCU)
- Either Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea or Hammersmith & Fulham (Central West BCU)
It brings VRU investment in the ENGAGE programme to £5.1m and nearly doubles the number of intervention coaches working with young people following their arrest for offences including possession of weapons, possession of drugs, theft and minor assault – at what is known as a ‘reachable moment’. Coaches work to prevent violence and support young people with ongoing, long-term support and guidance that can lead to education and training, as well as apprenticeship and employment opportunities.
Over the last year, more than 1,500 young people aged 10-18 who were arrested and taken to custody suites in the existing seven BCUs have been helped and supported away from violence by intervention coaches.
The VRU-funded programme – which is a joint partnership with the Met Police, local authorities and the NHS – sits outside the criminal justice service and intervention coaches are employed by the local authority and entirely independent of any police investigation.
ENGAGE sits alongside the DIVERT programme, which involves custody intervention coaches working with young adults aged 18-25. The VRU already funds coaches in all 12 of the Met’s BCUs to help the older cohort of young people, up to the age of 25. Over the last year, this established programme has helped nearly 2,700 young adults with ongoing support, information and guidance, while more than 300 directly took up opportunities in education, training or employment. Others continue to be supported while on remand or in prison.
The VRU has invested £3m to continue this programme across the 12 BCUs for the next two years.
The VRU is committed to investing, supporting and championing the important role of youth work in London. It funds youth workers in hospitals and major trauma centres across the capital, invests in a programme to develop leadership skills for youth workers to better support young people, and supports youth work delivered in eight neighbourhoods across the capital through the community-led MyEnds programme.
Today’s announcement comes as VRU Director, Lib Peck, joins the Met’s Detention team, ENGAGE youth workers and young people who have benefitted from the programme, at an event in Lewisham to highlight progress and share learning.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “Tackling violence and building a safer city for all Londoners is my top priority and I’m determined to build on the progress we have made by continuing to be tough on violence and tough on its complex causes.
“We have seen the impact youth workers have in a young person’s life and that’s why my VRU is increasing the number of intervention coaches so we can support thousands more young people through the guidance and stability offered by a trusted adult and diverting them towards positive opportunities.
“I’m determined to ensure that young people from all backgrounds are given the opportunities they deserve for a brighter future, as we work to build a safer, fairer London for everyone.”
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said, “Our approach is rooted in prevention and early intervention with a focus on reducing violence both now and in the long-term.
“Youth work plays a crucial role in prevention and the impact made by intervention coaches through the ENGAGE and DIVERT programmes can often be life-changing. They have supported thousands of young people at what is a point of crisis, giving them advice, helping them out of situations and towards opportunity, and providing that trusted adult relationship.
“That’s why, in partnership with local authorities and the Met, we’ve invested more to nearly double the number of youth workers and increased capacity across every BCU in London because we firmly believe that violence is preventable, not inevitable.”
Commander Owain Richards of the Met Police said, “Early intervention is key in diverting young people away from violence. Working with the Violence Reduction Unit to ensure young people can access youth workers in our custody suites is vital by helping to support them away from a life of crime.
“Tackling violence on our streets requires a multi-agency approach – providing the right care by the right person, it cannot be solved by policing alone.
“ENGAGE is a great example of this crucial work, showing how by working with our partners we can provide a fully rounded public health approach, with a shared goal of steering young people towards a more positive path.”
Yvonne Henry, tri borough ENGAGE team leader in Lewisham, said, “The ENGAGE team meets the need instead of focusing on the behaviour, reaching children at a teachable moment in crisis and supporting them to a path of opportunities.
“We listen to children without judgement, offering a reassuring time out moment when they are in greatest need.”