Current intervention strategies effective in preventing youth violence, study finds

A new report finds that school and education-based approaches are most effective in preventing youth violence, with promising results found as a result of family-based interventions and community-based coalitions.

Intervention strategies already in-place “can prevent” youth violence, a study by the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit has found.

Undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government, the report aimed to collate international evidence about what works to prevent youth violence, in order to inform policymakers and practitioners about the effectiveness associated with different intervention systems.

The report, which focused on preventative schemes for perpetrators between the ages of 10-29, found that school and education-based approaches were effective in reducing youth violence, including both bullying prevention programmes and social and emotional learning programmes.

In addition, parenting and family-focused approaches for preventing violence within the home, as well as mentoring programmes, community-based coalitions and school-based programmes that aim to prevent violence in relationships, were all found as ‘promising’ in their effectiveness.

Deterrence and fear-based approaches were found to have a detrimental effect on youth violence prevention, with evidence to suggest that these programmes could be associated with an increased risk of offending.

However, more evidence was needed to need to evaluate the effectiveness of gang involvement and violence strategies, said the report.

The study comes amid concerns amongst some academics and policymakers that indirect social and economic consequences of the pandemic could lead to an increase in youth violence, as well as recent calls from the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield for a more coordinated public service approach to help protect young people at risk of criminal exploitation.

The UK Government recently announced over £35 million worth of additional funding for Violent Reduction Units (VRUs) to help deal with violence and protect young people from risk of criminal exploitation.

VRUs are strategic bodies comprised of specialists from health, police, local government, probation and community organisations to help tackle violent crime and its underlying causes.

These units also help fund local projects that undertake preventative work with children and young people to support them to avoid falling into potential harmful situations, as well as prevention work in schools, communities, prisons, hospitals, Pupil Referral Units and police custody suites.

Speaking on the findings of her report into criminal exploitation of young people, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said a more coordinated public health approach was needed to protect and support the estimated 120,000 children and young people who are at risk from criminal exploitation after falling through cracks in public services.

“If intervention comes when children are already entangled in these dangerous enterprises, it is difficult to reach them,” said Longfield.

“To keep children safe, the response to youth violence must be a national priority across policing, public health and children’s services. We need equally strong national leadership in each of these three fields, backed up by local partnership working. This is the only way to fully implement a genuine public health approach across the country.

“Tragically, until there is this joined up public health response to gangs that identifies and helps all those children at risk as early as possible, teenagers will keep dying on our streets,” she concluded.

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