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Published -
June 29, 2023

Serious violence – foundational system mapping

The research aimed to create a system map: a visual representation of the structure and relationships within the system of support for children and young people around serious violence. The map is accompanied by commentary on how the system is perceived to interact, where it works well and less well, and what this means for children and young people and their families.

The system is examined through three lenses:

  • Access: The user journey up to the point of accessing a service, including identification and referral, thresholds and ‘gatekeepers’.
  • Engagement: The user experience of a service, including the relationship between CYP and their families, and the professionals who work with them.
  • Navigation: The user journey within, between and out of services; including signposting and onward referrals.



  • The system of support is very complex. 
  • Although there is a very clear national government presence, most provision is local. 
  • Participants identified schools and police as the most common system ‘entry points’ (i.e. where children and young people are first identified as being at risk). 
  • Health services are often missing from the conversation around serious violence risk. 
  • Children and young people perceived the system as being sparser, with fewer connections and interactions between those in the system. 


  • Participants believed that differing priorities between national organisations and inconsistent funding has led to a reactive system with a lack of preventative support for children and young people. 
  • Participants described inconsistency in entry points offered to children and young people identified as at risk. 
  • Participants believed that some entry points are used less frequently than they have the potential to be. 

Engagement & Navigation 

  • Trusted relationships are key, but are not always consistently present. 
  • Once issues are identified, participants believed the system can be slow and difficult to refer children and young people on to further help. 
  • However, once a situation escalates there can be an over-saturation of services. 

What potential improvements can be made to the system? 

  • Communication and data sharing: Participants believed there are opportunities for better data sharing. Better structures could encourage those holding relevant information about the children and young people to share it with others who could provide the children and young people with further support.  
  • Leadership within a complex system: There are multiple regional strategic bodies with relatively equal status. This , according to participants, sometimes makes it unclear who should be taking charge in the hierarchy of decision making.  
  • Integration of health services: Some participants felt that health services are the ‘missing link’ in attempting to join up the system.  
  • The role of schools: Teacher education and stronger relationships with other individuals/organisations in the system could help support schools in further improving their effectiveness. 


The involvement of children and young people in serious violence, as victim or perpetrator, has serious consequences for the children and young people involved, their peers and families, and has huge costs for society.

In this context, the Serious Violence Research and Analysis team within the Department for Education (DfE) and the Youth Endowment Fund, commissioned this research to begin exploring how the systems of support around serious violence shape the experiences of children and young people and their families.

As a ‘foundational’ project, the primary aim was to help us to develop hypotheses about the quality of children and young people’s experiences. As such, this project was not intended to provide a complete picture of children and young people’s journeys or experiences, but an indication of how the system is working from the perspective of various stakeholders. This will act as a steppingstone for further research.