Home Office funding has been announced for two projects aimed at diverting youngsters from crime in South Yorkshire – including one which will provide the cash needed to work with every child in the year they start secondary school.
Both bids were made through the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, and the announcement of almost £1.25m to be spent over two years is a success for the county – outstripping the sum awarded to neighbouring West Yorkshire which is a larger area with two big city communities.
The Sheffield project will make the money available for the Sheffield Futures organisation to develop and implement a comprehensive answer to the city’s increasing problems with violence, including knife crime.
According to the Home Office, the scheme will function by “providing credible information to young people from young people”.
It is envisaged it will involve sessions in school to raise awareness among pupils in year seven of the dangers surrounding violent crime and the exploitation of children by criminals.
The sessions will explore the consequences of getting involved in gangs and the effect of gun and knife crime on both individuals and communities.
Coun Jim Steinke, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said the funding would allow for a greater focus on work to prevent problems, rather than “one or two sessions” for year seven children.
The funding removes the financial barriers which could have provided obstacles for individual schools and Coun Steinke said: “I think we have to negotiate with the academies how they are going to take it forwards.
“It will mean work in every secondary school and also that Sheffield Futures will have the sustainability to develop that work.
“It enables us to be far more young person focused, in terms of prevention, rather than just hitting the gangs and prosecuting, which we do with a vengeance,” he said.
There is a possibility work could also be extended to those in the final year of primary school, though it would be done in a less intensive way than the proposed year seven format, he said.
The second project is a joint enterprise involving Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley and will involve setting up what the Home Office calls “a sub-regional child criminal exploitation response”.
That will involve drawing up a strategy with intervention methods, with a hub that identifies those at risk and provides support.
It is also anticipated there will be work in schools, where child criminal exploitation has been identified as a risk to pupils, with work relying on police intelligence information.
There are also plans to get voluntary, community and faith groups involved in providing longer term support for young people diverted away from the risk of child criminal exploitation.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As well as taking immediate action to curb knife crime, we need a longer-term approach to prevent our young people from getting drawn into a life of crime in the first place.
“This is why early intervention – alongside tough law enforcement – is at the heart of our Serious Violence Strategy.”