Jon Yates, Executive Director, Youth Endowment Fund
Involvement in violence devastates children and young people’s lives. The pandemic risks making this even worse with children missing months of school and struggling to access support from adults that they trust and rely on. Everyone I speak to about this tragedy, has one core message: we need change.
The Youth Endowment Fund is here to make a change. Our mission is to create a lasting, long-term change for the children at risk of becoming involved in violence. Today, we’ve launched our ambitious, ten-year strategy, which sets out how together we can make this a reality.
Making change happen
We know that young people’s involvement in violence isn’t inevitable – it’s preventable. But making that change is complex. There isn’t a simple, single solution.
Often people who care about young people feel they know what needs to be done to improve things, but nothing changes. Why is this? There are three reasons.
1.It’s partly because it isn’t clear enough – especially to those with power and influence – what it is that works. That’s why we’ll use our resources to fund and evaluate promising work that intervenes early in the lives of children and young people, so we can show what’s effective and what isn’t.
2. It’s partly because knowledge about how best to support children isn’t easy to access. That’s why we will do everything we can to make sure the knowledge about what works best is easy to find, easy to understand and easier to apply. And we’ll listen to children and young people themselves, to build a deep understanding of their lives.
3. It’s partly because there haven’t always been strong enough networks – cutting across the youth sector, education, children’s social care, mental health and the police – striving together for change. That’s why we’ll work hard to build these networks and connections, so that we don’t just produce reports that sit on a shelf. We’ll work with everyone who cares about children and young people to build a consensus about what needs to happen. Together we will spread and scale what we know works and challenge the policies and systems that are ineffective. Sometimes this will be hard, sometimes it may make us unpopular. We will always seek to put children and young people first and ask what’s needed to keep them safe.
Young people’s experiences at the centre
Through all of our work, we’ll make sure that we’re listening to young people themselves, especially those with experience of violence. They’re the experts in their own lives.
We also know that there’s real disproportionality in youth justice, with significant overrepresentation of Black and Asian children, looked-after children and children with special educational needs. Black children are over four times as likely to be arrested as white children. In May 2019, more than half of the children in youth custody were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
It’s clear that, if we are going to deeply understand young people’s lives, we need to address experiences of discrimination and inequality – including racism and poverty – as well as relationships with family, friends and the wider community.
So what’s next?
Our strategy is ambitious. It is impossible to deliver alone. For a change to happen, we will need your help.
If your job or passion is supporting children at risk, we want to hear from you. It doesn’t matter whether you are part of a grassroots community group or a local authority, a child and adolescent mental health service, a school or college or a police service. We need everyone’s help.
We want you to tell us where we should start.
We’re asking you to help us choose the first two theme areas we’ll focus our funding on, from now until 2023.
Alongside young people, your views will shape our future.
Together, I’m confident that we can make things better.