“We are facing a social emergency”- Southwark Council announces commitment to public health approach to tackling serious youth violence

8 November 2019

Southwark Council has carried out a joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA) into serious youth violence (SYV) in the borough which advocates for a public health centred approach to youth violence prevention in Southwark.

The JSNA was undertaken to develop our understanding of the determinants of SYV violence locally, and to identify opportunities for prevention and improved collaborative working. The report is intended to complement the extensive engagement undertaken as part of the Cross-Party Youth Violence Panel and the Violence and Vulnerability Unit's Extended Learning Review that highlighted some exemplary practice and made a set of recommendations including putting prevention at the heart of our work on community harm and exploitation.

Key findings from the JSNA highlight that Southwark’s adolescents are more deprived and more diverse than the general borough population. Deprivation in particular tends to cluster with other risk factors for violence, such as adverse childhood experiences.

Data from various sources also suggests that the age profile of those involved with SYV in Southwark is also getting younger.

The public health approach to any issue relies on a thorough understanding of the data and drivers. It supports a multi-faceted response that considers underlying risk factors ranging from the characteristics and experiences of the individual, to the relationships they have to the community and society in which they live.

The report makes a number of recommendations that seek to tackle the root causes of youth violence, an in-depth review of school exclusions, working with schools to embed a trauma-informed approach, increasing access to diversionary programmes and support services and continuing to improve data sharing between departments to allow for a shared and complete vision for the borough.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Health, said: “In light of the tragic events of the past weeks this report has become more pertinent than ever. We are facing a social emergency and it is crucial to stop the flow of young people becoming perpetrators and/or victims of serious youth violence. We have a number of existing initiatives that effectively support our young people but we must continue to challenge ourselves to find new ways of tackling this epidemic.

“I have always been clear that it will take everyone to play their part in preventing and reducing violence. This is a societal issue as opposed to the responsibility of a single agency or group of agencies. We have to be innovative and adjust our approaches to protecting and preventing children from being exploited, communities being blighted and young lives being destroyed.

“The public health approach is centred on working collaboratively across organisations, using information and intelligence on violence and its causes. This means working with families and young people to remove the issues in their lives that may make them at risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence.

“I have an aspiration that no young person in our borough will live in fear of their lives in their community and neighbourhood. We all have a responsibility to do more to stop this, and change how we work to safeguard our young people from violence. I’m committed to this task and will use all the tools at my disposal to do so.”

Page last updated: 08 November 2019

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