Zoë Leadley-Meade, a Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University, discusses what we can all do to prevent young people committing violent acts against each other after attending the Violence Virus panel discussion in Brixton last month.

As both an educator and a parent, I have grown increasingly concerned by the rising level of youth violence within London and across the UK. What has shocked me most however, is that there isn’t a clearly identifiable joined up response at either a local or national government level to the growing numbers of young people dying in our streets.

 

A panel discussion on the “Violence Virus” took place at the Ritzy Cinema last month following a murder in Brixton late last year.

The Violence Virus panel was one of the most diverse panel discussions I have attended as it included panellists with a range of experiences and perspectives. It was clear from the start that the discussion on solutions to youth violence was going to be rooted within the community, including the voice of young people and those who work with them. The panel consisted of Chris Excell a Met Police officer working with Trident in Lambeth and delivering programmes in schools, Jonathon Toy a leader of youth services and author of Silent Voices, Duncan Bew a Consultant Trauma and Emergency Surgeon at Kings College Hospital, Temi Mwale founding director of 4Front Project and law student at LSE, Keir Irwin-Rogers lecturer in Criminology at The Open University, Nick Mason OBE chair of Lambeth Safer Neighbourhood Board and Independent Advisory Group, and chaired by Leroy Logan MBE, retired Police Superintendent. The audience also reflected an engagement with grass roots community organisations and young people already working towards finding solutions to prevent and reduce youth violence.

The focus of the panel discussion was on finding solutions to youth violence rather than focusing on the problem alone, as this is often what stifles debate on this issue. There was no need to ask: ‘Why do young people commit violent acts against each other?’ as both the panel and the audience members were well aware of the causes as they have either seen the statistics, or seen them with their own eyes. Instead the question asked was: ‘What can we do to prevent young people committing violent acts against each other?’, with an emphasis on the ‘we’ as a collective effort is needed at all levels for any intervention to be successful.

Whilst each member of the panel put forward solutions from their different perspectives, there were some recurring themes that were identified:

  1. The narrative around youth violence needs to change from one which focuses on criminality alone to one which focuses on trauma
  2. Youth violence cannot be looked at in isolation as it is part of wider social problems
  3. That any work on finding solutions needs to be youth led and community based

As I was given the opportunity to put a question to the panel, I asked for their opinion on the role of schools and education in preventing and reducing youth violence. I was reassured when they said that they viewed schools as central to finding and implementing solutions. Schools play a key role both within communities and as communities in themselves and therefore any interventions to reduce youth violence need to be supported by schools if they are to be successful. The challenge that teachers face in identifying and supporting young people at risk of youth violence was also raised by the panel and the need for training in this area for all staff in schools working with young people was reiterated more than once.

Considering that the panel was held on a Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere was full of energy and determination to move the discussion on solutions to youth violence into action through the work of the Youth Violence Commission. I was particularly inspired by the input of the young people at the event and it cemented my own dedication to working towards solutions to prevent the needless deaths of our young people.

 

Zoë Leadley-Meade, is a former secondary school teacher and is now a Senior Lecturer in Education at London South Bank University. She tweets @think_zoe.

 

This post was written by Joe Watts

March 8, 2017 8:29 pm Leave your thoughts

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