Boxing, football and fitness activities are being combined with mentoring, volunteering, leadership opportunities and specialist support for young people and rolled out across the West Midlands this week.
It’s the Violence Reduction Unit’s latest initiative and is designed to divert 8 – 18 year olds away from violence. Each activity will help young people achieve their potential and develop valuable skills to help them flourish.
The VRU is a collaboration between the Police and Crime Commissioner and experts from health policing, education and councils.
The VRU has a commitment from public bodies to work together to reduce violence using a public health approach. This approach is the same as the one used by doctors to fight outbreaks of disease. It involves a thorough assessment of the causes of violence and tailored responses.
The latest investment – which amounts to almost £100,000 – follows a similar programme that took place over the summer and saw thousands of young people take part in sports, crafts and outdoor pursuits – alongside life skills coaching.
The initiative primarily supports those living in high crime areas of Coventry, Solihull, Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It’s anticipated that thousands of young people will take part and benefit from the programme.
The sessions will include mentoring aimed at reducing violent behaviour and developing confidence and communication skills. It is just one of a range of violence reduction programmes being established by the Violence Reduction Unit this year.
The West Midlands has seen knife crime double since 2014 and gun crime is up by a third.
The first activity started on Monday 17th February.
The West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Ashley Bertie, said: “Crime has been rising across the country for years and here in the West Midlands we have been badly affected by violence too.”
“It is vital young people, from all backgrounds, have access to positive activities, as well as strong mentors and role models.
“Half-term can see young people get drawn into negative behaviour, or even crime, and it is vital we provide an alternative for those most at risk.”
The VRU is steered by an Executive Group which is made up of Birmingham City Council (representing all 7 West Midlands councils), Public Health England, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (representing the region’s CCGs), the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office and West Midlands Police.
WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman, said: “It is essential that we work together as a region to tackle the root causes of crime through targeted intervention. Programmes of positive activities give our young people the opportunity to thrive and learn new skills.”