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14 January 2013

Tackling Britain's gang culture

Tackling Britain's gang culture

More long-term steps must be taken to tackle youth violence and churches must also play their part, delegates at a gang conference heard over the weekend.

At the conference organised by youth charity XLP on Saturday, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes he was committed to cross-party effort for long-term youth funding.

At the event, he invited Labour MP David Lammy and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to put proposals for long-term funding for youth initiatives to their respective party leaders.

Mr Hughes was speaking at the Tackling Britain’s Gang Culture Conference, organised jointly by urban youth charity XLP and the Centre for Social Justice. Held at XLP’s Urban Training Centre, All Hallows-on the-Wall, London, the conference brought together people who have been personally or professionally involved in the debate around gang violence to examine the causes and impact and discuss possible solutions.

When questioned over the short-term nature of the funding available through the government's Ending Gang and Youth Violence initiative, Mr Hughes said he would work to achieve cross-party consensus on providing longer-term strategic funding for youth projects.

Recognising that government works predominantly in four-year spending cycles, but that to address certain issues a longer term commitment to investment is required, Mr Hughes said: "I would be very happy to work with David Lammy and Iain Duncan Smith to see if we could persuade our three parties to make longer term commitments to young people... that would carry on through the election, into the next government.”

Patrick Regan OBE, a Christian and founder and chief executive of XLP, said: “We welcome the positive outcomes of this conference - it is encouraging to see so many people fired up about the critical issues our young people are facing and to see politicians committing to work together to deliver long term solutions.

"It is naive to think that short-term tactical enforcement alone will solve the complex causes of youth violence and stop young people from leaving school and joining gangs. Instead, we must tackle the drivers that lead young people to join gangs in the first place and that will take serious effort and commitment for the long-term.

“Even in a time of cuts to our public spending, I would urge government to understand the need for such early intervention – it costs between £69,000 and £193,000 to lock up a young person in an institution for a year but the cost of local youth work provision that helps young people make wise lifestyle choices and stay out of gang culture, costs a fraction of this sum.”

Chief Superintendent John Sutherland, borough commander of the London Borough of Southwark, supported the move for more strategic intervention planning: “I’m not a politician, but with my twenty years of experience of enforcement, I feel very strongly that we need to move away from the crippling disease of short-termism….we need to make long-term investments to ensure we don’t write off an entire generation.”
John Sutherland, alongside a number of speakers at the conference felt that faith groups had a significant role to play. To loud applause, he said: “Faith matters. There is a place for prayer. It's not fashionable to say that but frankly we've not got time for fashion anymore." Churches were also challenged by the panel to open up their buildings to assist with intervention projects.

XLP will host a second conference later this year at their XLP Urban Training Centre, All Hallows-on-the-Wall on 2 May 2013, from 7pm to 9pm. The conference will highlight the devastating impact of educational failure on the lives of young people and their families as well as discussing solutions.