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Three insights from the Youth Endowment Fund Toolkit

At the end of last month, we launched the YEF Toolkit – an accessible, online tool that provides free-to-use summaries of the best available research on keeping children safe from becoming involved in  violence.

I’ve blogged before to explain how you can use it. Now, I want to share some of things the the YEF Toolkit tells us:

Focused deterrence has led to large reductions in violence – but it’s tricky to implement and we need more evidence in the UK

Focused deterrence was developed in Boston in the mid-1990s. It recognises that most serious violence is associated with a small group of people who are very likely to be victims of violence, trauma, and extremely difficult circumstances. Focused deterrence attempts to identify this group and support them to stop. It combines three strategies:

  • Support. People involved in violence are given help to access positive support and social services.
  • Community engagement. There’s engagement with the wider community to support them to communicate that they want violence to stop and those involved to be safe and supported. Focused deterrence projects will often arrange engagement between the people involved in violence and victims’ families, reformed former group members, and faith leaders.
  • Deterrence. Clear communication of the consequences of violence and swift and certain enforcement if violence occurs.

The international evidence base suggests focused deterrence can lead to large reductions in violent crime. A recent study in Glasgow also found a positive impact.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy – it can be really tricky to put focused deterrence into practice. Because it involves so many stakeholders, who need to be committed to collaborating, it needs time, planning and investment to get right.

Trying to “shock” children away from violence can cause real harm  

Sometimes, approaches that are meant to reduce violence can cause more harm than good.

That include things like military-style bootcamps, which use strict discipline, short-term confinement and demanding physical tasks to try to prevent children who have already offended from doing it again. These types of programmes are more popular in the USA, where studies have shown that – rather than reduce violence – taking part in a bootcamp can increase the likelihood that a child will go on to commit an offence.

Studies have shown that sending children away from their families and communities limited their access to things which support them to reintegrate. And after children left these programmes, a lot of the time they weren’t given any follow-up care or links into other services that could help them.

Supporting children to develop social skills and manage their emotions can prevent violence

There are a couple of areas the Toolkit explored – social skills programmes and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – which aim to help children develop positive relationships and learn how to manage their emotions.

We’ve found that both could be very effective at preventing violence. While they’re very different in the ways they’re delivered, both approaches help children to understand their emotions and other people’s and use problem-solving skills rather than getting angry or upset.

We need more research

These insights are based on the best research we could find. But it’s important to say that there are still lots of gaps in the evidence base, especially in England and Wales. We’ll use our £200 million endowment to fund programmes and evaluations so that we can find out more about what works.

The YEF Toolkit is a live resource and we’ll continue to work with you to make sure it includes the information you need. And we’ll update it to make sure it reflects the latest research. That means that, when you’re commissioning a new service, developing an existing service or making an investment in further research, you’ll be able to use the most up-to-date information to support your decision-making.

What should we include when we update the Toolkit? Take our quick survey. And if you have any other thoughts on what we could do to improve, email me on peter.henderson@youthendowmentfund.org.uk.

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