Youth Violence Commission – Glasgow VRU Public Health

Keen to discover what lay behind the stark decline in violence between young people in Glasgow in recent years, five members of the Youth Violence Commission (YVC) team – Leroy Logan, Temi Mwale, Camara Fearon, Duncan Bew and Keir Irwin-Rogers – made their way north to visit the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

What follows is an account of their trip. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read about the trip’s activities in detail, but would like an insight into ‘Key Reflections’, please feel free to jump to the final section of this post.

Tuesday 3rd October

The visit began with early morning introductions and an open conversation between YVC team members and several members of the Scottish VRU.

Graham Goulden and Dr. Christine Goodall – Boclair Academy Secondary School

Our first direct insight into the VRU’s work came in the form of a trip to Boclair Academy. Expecting to be passive bystanders, the YVC team were taken by surprise when Graham Goulden of the VRU insisted that each member join a group of 5-6 pupils for the morning session. All pupils had volunteered to be part of a programme called Mentors in Violence Prevention. The particular session we attended centred on raising pupils’ skills and confidence in challenging threatening, abusive and violent behaviour in their peer groups.

The second session was run by Dr. Christine Goodall, Director of Medics Against Violence. Pupils were shown a powerful short video about the implications of a range of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), before being asked to identify and discuss their views on what sort of ACEs they thought might trigger violence. There was a high level of interest and engagement throughout the session, as pupils increased their awareness and understanding of the childhood factors that often underpin violent behaviour.

Sergeant Danny Stuart – After-school club

In the afternoon, we spent some time at a community centre running after-school activities. Benefitting from the support of several volunteers from the local community, parents and children enjoyed some food and drinks whilst completing homework together and engaging in a range of arts and crafts activities.

John Hendry – Young Point (Street Outreach)

Our final session of the day was spent with John Hendry, a street outreach worker, who provided us with a useful insight into his work in some of the most socio-economically deprived areas of Glasgow. After some interesting discussions, John took us on a tour of some of the areas where he went to engage and support young people.

During a late-evening debrief, Johnny gave us his thoughts on the main factors that underpinned youth violence in Glasgow, including a lack of stable and decently paid employment, families suffering from drug addiction and significant cuts to youth services.

Wednesday 4th October

Inspector Keith Jack – Navigator Project

Our second day began with an insight into the Navigator Project – an initiative that has placed a small number of professionals in hospital emergency departments to engage and support victims of serious violence. Keith also took this opportunity to highlight to us the great work that local police officers had done in recent years engaging with local communities to build trust and confidence in policing.

Khadija Coll – One Community

Khadija was part of a new initiative to support refugees who had recently arrived in Glasgow. Lacking knowledge of the local area and often suffering from high levels of trauma, many refugees had engaged with Khadija and the One Community project, valuing the support it provided. Khadija and others on the project acted as a 24/7, one-stop-shop for anyone who would benefit from practical help and advice or emotional support.

Inspector Iain Murray – Street and Arrow

After visiting Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, Inspector Iain Murray had established an impressive initiative based on a social enterprise model, known as Street and Arrow (a play on the words Straight and Narrow). After several months of constant set-backs, Iain’s sheer graft and persistence had resulted in the establishment of a food truck in Mansfield Park. The truck employed people who had been previously been in trouble with the police, providing them with skills in hospitality and cooking, with the ultimate aim of supporting them to find further work.

Youth club – The Swamp

Our trip ended with a visit to The Swamp, a youth club which boasted one of the biggest Green Screens in Scotland – if don’t know what one is, you need to get down with the kids.

The manager of the youth club told us how it had gone from strength to strength over the years, despite familiar struggles around inadequate and inconsistent funding.

Key Reflections

The YVC team are incredibly grateful to the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit for providing such a rich insight into a wide range of initiatives that are having a positive impact on communities across Glasgow.

From projects with young people in schools, to thriving youth clubs and community centres, authentic street outreach, and targeted interventions with people previously involved in violence, there is an abundance of pro-social drive in Glasgow that has energised communities across the city. Reflecting on these initiatives, however, it was difficult to pinpoint precisely what differentiated them from those currently operating across London.

Organisations and programmes, such as the 4Front project and Growing Against Violence, work in schools across London to inspire young people whilst increasing their knowledge of the law and compassion for one another. Red Thread, a London-based charity, posts outreach workers in major trauma hospital units in what appears to be a similar model to Glasgow’s Navigator (outlined above). It is worth highlighting that the Violence Reduction Unit has enjoyed several years of relatively consistent funding for their projects, whereas services based in London often report funding being a major barrier to effective delivery.

There was one clear point of divergence between Glasgow and London. Several members of the VRU were keen to highlight how the police had managed to engage constructively with members of the community in Glasgow. Inspector Keith Jack highlighted that police officers were working constructively alongside parents with whom they had historically found it difficult to engage. As parents began to work constructively with the police and other statutory services, this appeared to have a positive impact on their children.

Moreover, it was telling that relatively high-ranking police officers were able to dedicate a large proportion of their time to intervention and prevention efforts, such as Street and Arrow (described above). One member of the YVC, a retired police Superintendent, Leroy Logan, highlighted that the MET would be unlikely to allocate police resources in this way.

Over the coming months, the YVC (supported by the London Independent Youth Safety Advisory Board) will consider in detail the lessons that other cities around the UK might be able to take from the great work of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit.


This post was written by Vicky Foxcroft

November 15, 2017 3:23 pm Leave your thoughts

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