KIM MCGUINNESS: Progress at risk without continued Government funding for violence reduction

Violence Reduction Units work. We need to look no further than our Community Hub in Southwick for an example of this.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 12:00 am
If you live on an estate and see the same individuals again and again causing trouble, it is the type of projects offered through my VRU which can and do make all the difference.

This year, ahead of bonfire night there was a heavy focus on preventative work, where efforts targeted one particular street known for having more than its fair share of fire troubles over the years. But thankfully this year that wasn’t the case, and we never want it to be the case again.

That’s why here in our region, my VRU is bursting with plans for 2021. We are full of ambitions for targeted work with known offenders while at the same time giving young people an alternative to crime and supporting families going through a tough time. And let’s face it, times are tougher than ever right now.

But I am starting to worry. What if we can’t bring these plans to life? What if the Government fails to see the progress we are making and pulls the brakes on what is a long-term mission to prevent crime in our region?

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Interventions and early support to tackle the root causes of crime improves lives. Success with this doesn’t happen overnight. You need to invest in people – give them your time, build their trust and present them with real opportunities. But it pays off. It is only with this level of commitment that our local communities will stay safe and trouble free, and that’s what we all want.

If you live on an estate and see the same individuals again and again causing trouble, and you’re wondering what can be done other than calling the police, it is the type of projects offered through my Violence Reduction Unit which can and do make all the difference.

Our YOLO project, for example, has been working with a young lad who has shown a real interest in Rugby and through a mentoring scheme with the Foundation of Light we’ve helped him join a local club.

By finding his passion and building on it, the changes in him have been unbelievable. His talent is being recognised and he can’t get enough of the training. This has had a knock on effect in that he is happier and he is now getting full attendance records at school – he’s off the streets and out of trouble. It’s a real turn-around and we need more of this not less.

But, this work needs long-term funding from Government. At the time of writing we have not yet had

confirmation that the Home Office will fund the third year of Violence Reduction Units and the recent Spending Review announcements have kept us in the dark. And so the clock keeps ticking. All the progress we’ve started to make here in Sunderland is already at risk if the Home Secretary does not urgently announce continued funding for violence reduction.

Now is not the time for Government to turn its back on supporting local communities. The benefits are proven and there is more good work to be done, we just need to be given the green light so we can avoid the need for blue lights in future.