Sheffield communities most affected by knife crime should have more of a say in how to tackle it, report says
The Sheffield communities most affected by knife crime should be given a say in how to tackle it, a major new report has said.
Last year, the city was rocked by a spate of knife crime, with eight fatal stabbings and scores of other serious incidents.
But even these incidents are only a fraction of the overall number, with almost 1,000 offences recorded in Sheffield alone in the 12 months to June, and many more thought to go unreported.
Now, a group of experts, local charities, youth organisations and members of the public have said that the people most affected by violence should be given more of a voice in how to tackle it.
Dr Will Mason, lecturer in applied social sciences at Sheffield University, said: “This report represents our collective work with some of the communities most affected by violence.
“Too often, these groups are not meaningfully included in the development of plans to address the issues that affect them.
“We hope these recommendations can contribute towards the development of local responses that take a holistic, collaborative and sustainable approach to achieve a safer city for all.”
The report emerged from a public conference on youth violence, masculinity and mental health which brought together academic experts, community organisations and more than 90 members of the public earlier this year.
One of its key recommendations is for a paid working group of young people and adults from the deprived areas most affected by knife crime to help design regional violence reduction strategies.
The report states: “Young people and families living in high deprivation areas are the most affected by current increases in serious violence and decreases in service provision.
“However, it is these families who are often least represented in the design and implementation of service responses.”
The report also calls for changes to be made in the city’s schools, including reducing the number of exclusions and recruiting more teachers from diverse backgrounds.
Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for education and skills said: “Reducing school exclusions is one of my key priorities because of the impact it has on a young person's life chances.
“I am committed to working with partners to recognise the importance of this issue, but more importantly to ensure it is addressed on a long-term basis.”
While figures show a reduction in knife crime between 2017 and 2018, South Yorkshire was still one of the regions which had seen the biggest increase over the last five years.
In June, this led former Home Secretary Sajid Javid to announce £1.6 million in funding for the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner to set up a Violence Reduction Unit, based on a similar approach that has proved successful in Scotland.
However, the report warns that the short-term nature of this investment, as well as the way services are fragmented and the poor relationships that exist between state institutions and communities, will limit the plan’s chances in Sheffield.
Overall, the report makes 10 recommendations including helping families in deprived areas to claim benefits and maximise their incomes and encouraging schools and colleges in the city to work with employers to provide greater opportunities for young people.
Saeed Brasab from the Broomhall-based Unity Gym was one of those who participated in the conference after one of the gym’s members, 22-year-old Fahim Hersi, was stabbed to death at Centertainment in Sheffield last year.
He said: “This report comes from our collective work with some of the communities most affected by violence whose perspectives are not voiced.
"We want to work together for safer cities and hope that our recommendations can support plans to listen to and learn from those already working to support people effected and their families and those with lived experience.
"Furthermore we are keen to ensure that we are listening to those communities most effected and equipping them further.
"We know and understand early intervention is needed, but suggest that that should be community-led, offered in safe spaces created in Sheffield and accessed by young people and families from communities most affected.
"It is important that the city takes this opportunity to build on and resource services that aid victims, friends and families in dealing with issues including loss and bereavement.
"Enhanced emotional and mental health support is needed in communities and this could be effectively delivered by community-based organisations that already have personal relationships with young people affected by violence, if they are resourced and supported appropriately.
"I also strongly believe government money, which we have seen often poured into anti-knife posters and social media campaigns, won't be of much benefit to our city and those resources would be better spent on sustaining organisations at the forefront of tackling youth violence, supporting young people at risk and training specialist trauma support workers including those with lived experience from affected communities."
As well as activists from Sheffield, the conference was also attended by 4Front, a highly-respected London organisation that works with communities to empower them to move away from violence.
Temi Mwale, 4Front's director, said: “We believe that national collaboration is essential and we were delighted to work in partnership with Sheffield organisations to develop regional recommendations that will make a difference.
“We work tirelessly to enable young people to be at the forefront of change because we believe that those with lived experience of violence have a crucial role to play in designing strategies to build peace in our communities.
“Our recommendations are clear and actionable – we hope that they will be implemented promptly.”