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New online tool to prevent children becoming involved in violence launched by £200 million Youth Endowment Fund

Today, the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) has launched their new Toolkit, which shows what works – and what doesn’t – to reduce youth violence. It is easy to understand, free and online. The tool is there to help police forces, local authorities, youth charities and school leaders and others use the evidence to decide what support to provide to children at risk of involvement in violence.

Founded in 2019 with a £200 million endowment from the Home Office, the YEF is here to make sure every child gets to live a life free from involvement in violence.

At the moment, finding out what really works is difficult. Knowledge about how best to support children is:

  • Hard to access, hidden behind journal paywalls or on complicated websites 
  • Hard to understand, written in complicated academic language without clear recommendations on what the findings mean for the people who decide what to invest in.

That means it’s hard to make judgements about the right services to invest in, so that children get the right support at the right time and violence is reduced.

The YEF Toolkit will change that. It summarises the available evidence and shows how effective different approaches are at preventing violence.

This is the first version, which includes evidence about 13 different approaches. It’ll be updated every six months with new topics and evidence that people working with children need.

One of the most difficult things about my job as Home Secretary is meeting and comforting the families ripped apart by the scourge of knife crime and serious violence.

“It makes me all the more determined to cut crime and make our streets safer by tackling serious violence at its roots.

“It is vital that all parts of the public sector work together to protect young people from harm and give them the opportunity and freedom to succeed, and the Youth Endowment Fund is an important part of our investment to tackle this problem and help save young lives.

“Every young person diverted away from a life of crime and violence will mean fewer families are left shattered and fewer communities torn apart by such tragedies in the future.

Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department

So what does the YEF Toolkit say?

The YEF Toolkit tells us how likely it is that an activity will successfully prevent violence. One of the approaches that has shown the most promise so far is focused deterrence.

Developed in Boston in the mid-1990s, focused deterrence works with the small number of people who are involved in the majority of crimes or acts of violence in a community. The local community, as well as teams from the police, social care, health workers, youth workers and others offer them tailored support to change the path they’re on, including things like help with getting a job, drug treatment and building their skills. The community and authorities clearly communicate that they want violence to stop and those involved in violence to be safe, and that further violence will have consequences. It makes the consequences of violence clear, while offering a route out.

It’s been done successfully in the UK in Glasgow, when people involved in violence were offered opportunities in exchange for a “no violence, no weapon” pledge. Research suggested that violent offending was reduced by half for young people who participated in the intervention for two years.

Another promising approach is a talking therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). When it is applied to youth violence prevention, it is based on the idea that negative or impulsive thoughts and behaviours might make someone more likely to lash out or act aggressively. These thought patterns will often be related to trauma accumulated through experience of violence and other distressing events. They could include a tendency to misconstrue comments as disrespectful or provocative, be hypervigilant and always ‘on guard’, or seek revenge. The therapist might work with a child to better understand other people’s behaviour and motivations and use problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations. 

Social skills training can also support children to develop self-control and positive relationships with their peers. It helps children to think before they act, understand other people’s perspectives, communicate effectively, and use strategies for managing impulsiveness or aggression. Research suggests supporting children to develop self-control can protect them from becoming involved in crime and violence. 

There are also approaches that the YEF Toolkit has found can be actively harmful. Unlike therapies or programmes that offer children support, activities that are solely focused on deterrence and try to “shock” children into changing their behaviour (like military-style bootcamps) can lead to more reoffending.  

Using the YEF Toolkit

The YEF Toolkit will be strongest when combined with the local knowledge that people working in police forces, local authorities, youth organisations and schools hold about the children in their community. It’s there to enhance that expertise and help people use evidence when they’re making decisions about how to help children stay safe from violence.

The YEF Toolkit comes at an important moment. As the restrictions we’ve all been living through start to lift, many of us are worried that we’ll see an increase in violence in our communities.

“We need to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Toolkit is here to help make sure that we’re investing in services that prevent violence.  

“Some Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces have already decided to invest in focused deterrence. I hope the Toolkit will encourage more to do the same and help us build the evidence by evaluating their efforts. I’d encourage schools to use the Toolkit to invest in making sure children develop social skills. I want to see local authorities use it to help shape the support that families get, so that every child gets to grow up in a supportive home.

“The Toolkit is there to enhance your local knowledge and help you to make the best choices for your community. By working together, we can make sure that no child becomes involved in violence.

Jon Yates, Executive Director, Youth Endowment Fund

To access the Youth Endowment Fund’s Toolkit, please visit: www.youthendowmentfund.org.uk/toolkit

© 2021 The Youth Endowment Fund Charitable Trust. Registered Charity Number: 1185413.
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