Earlier this month several of the Young Bristol team attended the Beyond The Blade event at The Arnolfini hosted by The Guardian newspaper. We were eager to attend after learning from the Avon & Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, that knife crime in our city is on the rise and young people are more at risk than ever.
Faye, our Creative Programme coordinator, has written up some of the insights shared and thoughts on the position of the local youth club below:
On Thursday 7th Feb The Guardian editor-at-large, Gary Younge, hosted a discussion about young people and knife crime. Several Young Bristol staff were in attendance to learn more about the impact on local young people and how we as youth workers could improve the outlook.
The Guardian newspaper began this investigation in 2016 after finding there were no publicly available statistics around youth knife crime. The newspaper felt that this shows how little was known and how little the government cared. They also felt that the usual government response to knife crime was a hurried, headline grabbing rush after each fatality but eventually it would diffuse and the work would not continue to tackle the issue with the same ferocity until the next death. The Guardian journalists have collected stories, data and opinions on the issue and have also recorded some videos and podcasts to hear the real life voices affected by knife crime.
Interestingly, Younge began by talking about the unwritten rule, the global agreement that we as adult humans collectively have a responsibility to develop younger people. The idea that we will ‘put children first’ and aim to do ‘what’s right by the children’ is a common mentality so how can we apply that to supporting young people involved in criminal activity?
The Public Health Approach (PHA) is a new idea which aims to balance the issue from just a crime/police one to a health issue too. It involves the police working with hospitals, social workers and schools to better understand how the young person has found themselves in this position and what needs to change if they are going to steer clear of criminal activity. The PHA was rolled out in Scotland to tackle the violence reported across the country, particularly in Glasgow which once had the highest murder rate in Western Europe. Of the 39 young people killed by knives in 2017, none of these were in Scotland. This approach is favoured by the powers that be in Bristol so hopefully this will signal the beginning of some positive changes in our City.
Involved in the discussion was Deputy Mayor of Bristol, Asher Craig and local artist, Collins. Collins suggested that Young People likely to be involved in knife crime would benefit from realistic role models. Not people from the community who have seen huge successes but those with achievements that are more realistic to the average young person. Good, friendly, hard-working people in the community such as the shop keeper or the youth workers. He also felt that there needs to be a greater representation of positive role models from different backgrounds for young people, especially those in the Black and Ethnic Minority (BEM) community. We were informed that of the 1,247 teachers in Bristol, only 26 (2%) would class themselves as BEM. Considering that in 2011 16% of people in Bristol identified as BEM it doesn’t feel like we have the balance right yet for our young people to feel represented.
Asher Craig believes the changes must start within the most at-risk communities. Last year she hosted the ‘It Takes A Village’ event at the Trinity Centre for concerned parents, carers and family members. The event was a space for families to discuss worries about school exclusions, stop and search, bad influences and how to tackle bad behaviour. Asher is hoping to empower the families to work together to build better communities around the young people and that includes supporting the adults/parents too.
What I took from the evening was proof that our youth clubs across the city offer such a valuable service, not just a safe space for the young people to learn and grow, but somewhere to be inspired and encouraged by good, honest, hard-working adults. The opportunities that Young Bristol provide do make a difference and are clearly needed in helping to nurture young people. In other words, keep up the good work!!
Another colleague in attendance offered this feedback: “I thought what came across was that the panel/audience were supportive of youth services and felt that the lack of youth services was one of the factors in the rise in knife crime, and also that some of the solutions they saw would be through mentoring. Especially because some of the areas where knife crime is affecting people the most are areas that youth organisations like our own wouldn’t be a perfect fit. I also thought the Ban the Box initiative, where they were talking about removing the criminal convictions box from job applications was interesting (with obvious stipulations for our organisation).”
If you would like to find out more about the Beyond the Blade series, including the videos and podcasts you can find them here: https://www.theguardian.com/membership/series/beyond-the-blade