Podcast Ep 1: Reducing Violence and Knife Crime amongst Young People

February 4, 2020 Arun Bharij

How can schools work with other organisations effectively? What is the impact of exclusion reduction programmes? Camilla Turner, Education Editor of The Telegraph moderates this panel discussion with Dave Thompson (Chief Constable, West Midlands Police), Mark Brindley (Founder, The James Brindley Foundation) and Arnold Yousaf (SOS+ Project Development Lead, St Giles Trust). This panel discussion was recorded live on 13 November 2019, in the Main Stage of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

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Transcript

Camilla Turner:

I'm Camilla Turner, I'm the education editor of the Daily Telegraph and I'll be chairing today's panel. We're going to be talking about reducing violence and knife crime among young people. We've got our panellists here to discuss it with us, and then we'll be opening up for a question and answer session with the audience.

Earlier this year, London's Mayor Sadiq Khan made a comment about knife crime, where he said that he blamed school exclusions for the rise and knife crime. This was a hugely controversial topic that school leaders had a lot to say about, but it really kind of highlighted the discussion about schools and what they can do and how they can work together with other agencies. To all be part of the solution and trying to keep children on the right track and keep them away from violence and knife crime. So here to discuss these issues today, we're very lucky to have Dave Thompson, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. We've got Arnold Yousaf, the SOS Plus Project Development Leader at St Giles Trust and we've got Mark Brindley, the founder of the Mark Brindley Foundation. We were also due to have Dr Lola Abudu, Deputy Director for Health and Wellbeing of Public Health. England, West Midlands. But unfortunately, due to purdah, she's had to pull out.

We're going to be using Slido, for the question and answer sessions. This is an interactive tool. So if you log in on your phone or device to Slido.com and enter their hashtag #SAAShow19 which is up on the screen as the code, and you put main stage, then you can type your questions there and everyone can vote for which questions are their favourites, and then when we come to the Q&A, the most popular questions will be the ones I read out. We will also have a roving mic, so if you think of something later, you can just put up your hand and we'll have a mic come over to you. So I'm now going to hand over to the panellists who are going to say a few words each before we have a discussion about some of the issues. So, Dave Thompson, over to you first.

Dave Thompson:

Good afternoon, everybody. I remember at school all the cool kids used to sit on the back rows. It's great to see teachers do the same thing so hello to the cool gang of the back. Right so I’m Dave Thompson, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. We police the conurbation of the West Midlands, which is the three million people live here. We’re the largest police force outside of London and we police an area that's actually the youngest part of the United Kingdom, with more under 25’s hear than any other part the country. We've also got the second most diverse population and we've probably got probably the most deprived if you could take out our wards, but really the third highest concentration population lives in deprivation. So a lot of issues around violence in the West Midlands been very topical. You probably saw in February we talked about this being a bit of a national crisis after we had three young men stabbed and killed in the city. But that was the tip of the iceberg with some of the issues we see.

So from my perspective, really, violence is a really tricky issue for the place, when we come to police crimes like burglary, you know, you go to where the burglary is happening. You deal with the victims and towns, put locks on the doors, you try and catch the bad guys. It's really straightforward. Quite hard to do, but still, relatively, violence is incredibly complex, and you often hear this talk about the public health based model. It's worth looking up at the ecological model of violence, but it kind of talks about lots of factors, risk factors, absence of protective factors, actually, sometimes why people are violent are things in the past. So a lot of work around adverse childhood experiences growing up in homes with domestic violence, lots of attachment issues with young people but at the same time there’s some very immediate pressures that you'll see. So what's going on in the drugs markets? Pressures on young people sometimes inability how to deal with conflict with turmoil, massive pressures at home on parenting all lead to a number of factors that brought this issue together, and so it's not one of those areas policing can deal with.

So what's going on in the West Midlands? Well, we'd already started working a public health based model a number of years ago. We'd followed the models in Scotland. It's really good to see London's caught up with that, but nationally, suddenly there's a big buy into violence reduction units, which have got some real opportunity there, not led by the police and public health play an important role, I think the second issue there’s some more money for placing and in the short term we've been doing some particular operations trying to discourage universal life, carrying, trying to do some work around crimes like robbery, that are very knife influence and doing a lot of work to target drugs markets. But all of that work fundamentally, you know, can have an impact. But what we try and do to increase protective factors for young people and where you guys come in is important. So there's a lot of programmes we’re running in schools. Mentors Against Violence, we're running 100 schools in Birmingham. It's improved. It came from Scotland. It's dramatically improved behaviour. It's getting young people take ownership of conflict and intervene. We're doing some really good stuff with our school's panels across parts of the force area, where we’re regularly meeting to discuss challenges and issues. There's a lot of what we need to do with young people around prevention and hopefully we'll get into some of that through the conversation.

Mark Brindley:

Good afternoon. My name is Mark Brindley. First and foremost I'm father to murdered a son and that is the reason why I'm here. Secondly, response as a family after losing our son was to start a charity, and that charity is there to raise funds independently to deliver a programme into schools. And to raise awareness amongst the public and to what I would say prod government on the issues surrounding youth violence. So the programme that we have is a programme where we train teachers within their own schools to deliver the James Brindley Full Circle Programme. That programme is not just an educational tool, it's a screening tool for vulnerability and an assessment tool for the ongoing assessment of the children or groups of children running through the programme. So that programme can be 12 weeks it could be as many weeks as you like, but it's altered according to the needs of the individual that's running through the programme. That programme focuses on the environment and the child that the environment that the child has grown up in. Particular, emphasis on family functioning and the role models that they have and then develop techniques and skills in becoming resilient to pressures from the outside world and staying safe. It's all about saving lives.

Camilla Turner:

Arnold over to you.

Arnold Yousaf:

How’s it going everyone? My name's Arnold, Project Development Lead for St John's Trust. Has everyone heard of St John's Trust? Some of you. For those of you that don't know about St John's Trust we’re a London based charity. We have a nationwide reach. We're working with some of the most disadvantaged, vulnerable people, groups within society. The way that we do that is through social action and our approaches threefold. So we work in prisons, we work in over 40 prisons. We offer education, training and employment. We have noted different community services, so two of those biggest community services are gang exit projects. The first one started about 13 years ago, and it's the SOS project, so the SOS project. What we did is we started to utilise practitioners with lived experience, meaning that these are professionals who’ve lived experience within the criminal justice system, whether that's gang involvement, criminal activity or exploitation as a perpetrator or a survivor.

When we first adopted this approach in its infancy, we were scrutinised because it was seen as quite radical within the sector. When we started to prove that actually, when you got lived experience what you've got is you've got you've got a professional that has local intelligence, they have cultural competency, meaning that they understand gang culture, they understand certain ethnic cultures in certain local areas. And they understand how criminal code and culture transcends into popular youth culture and what young people are being exposed to and how they talk. Also, they use their credibility and the authenticity to engage with some of the most disengaged. So we started to prove very early on that this is a very successful approach and it's effective.

Now as we were doing this, we started to get a frequency of requests from teachers such as yourselves from educational professionals, professionals within the sector, the community parents, okay, And what they started to say is that the work that we're doing in SOS is great but why do we have to wait until our sons, our daughters, our clients, our students have been shot or stabbed, or gone to prison or joined a gang. Surely there's an earlier level of intervention and prevention is definitely better than cure. So that's when we started our prevention programme on and that's why the capacity today is the SOS+ plus project. So we just added a plus on top of SOS and what we do is we go into educational settings. We go as young as year five, actually year four now, to mainstream schools, to people in referral units, to community centres, youth centres, youth offending services, colleges and we talk to young people about the realities on the consequences of gang involvement, criminal activity and exploitation. Okay, and the reason we're talking about the realities of the consequences is because they're not getting the realities of the consequences. When I'm talking about the “roads” because that's what they'll call it as a colloquialism, “the road life” that's the gang life, the criminal life right. When they look at that, it’s presented to them in a way that's very fascinating, very glamorous. When something's glamorised again and again, it becomes normalised and you become desensitised to high levels of criminality and violence eventually. So what they see is 5% of the money, the power, the respect, the stuff that makes you look very attractive.

What we have to do is unpack our lived experience, the realities and the consequences of the 95% which is long term imprisonment, which is your family members getting targeted, which is serious injury, mental trauma, debt, bondage, all of the other consequences to dispel common misconceptions. So what I mean by common misconceptions is they'll see stuff that that we will see as abnormal and it becomes social norms in their life. Okay, so dealing drugs for, you know, a London based gang out away from their family in Northamptonshire or in one of the regional areas, that's abnormal thing, for a thirteen year old to do, it becomes a social norm. So what we start to do is burst those bubbles alright. One of those bubbles might be that they think that they're safe about carrying the knife. Another one might be that they think that it's easy, going to prison is easy. So it nullifies the consequences because they’ve seen a 30 second Instagram post. You know, with an inmate they’ll actually have a smartphone in his cell talking to them not about how his next door neighbour tried to commit suicide or the levels of violence in prison, or how he's been locked down for three days straight because prison staff, there's a shortage of prison staff. But what they'll be seeing in that 30 second is the Instagram post is that prisoner with a smartphone wearing Gucci slides and playing FIFA and smoking weed and acting like he's having the time of his life. So they have this warped motion, so we have to come in there and talk to them about the realities. Dispose common misconceptions, talk to them about grooming, recruiting, how they can safeguard themselves from that by exposing the groom impulses okay and then talk to them about tips to stay safe, such as the safeguarding officers within their school and how they can have positive relationships with them when some of these issues do occur.

This is not just, this is something that we've been doing for more than 10 years now the Home Office has evaluated it as outstanding, but we realised that we need a holistic approach. So it's not just talking to the young people, but also doing sessions for parents, for teachers, for multi-agency professionals, practitioners working on the front line with young people, especially exploited young people. So, yeah, for me, I'm going to be talking as a professional, but also as someone with lived experience. Okay, at the age of 18, this is just a testament to you as teachers, you would look at me and think there's no hope for me in school. Alright, I was getting excluded again and again. I was getting in run ins with the law. By the age of 18 I was looking at 25 years behind bars. I was on remand for a kidnapping, false imprisonment and a murder. Okay, I was fully gang entrenched by the age of 12 and at that time, when I was sitting in prison at 18 reflecting on my life. I wish I had someone that I could relate to that came into my school and talk to me about what those realities and consequences are. So it gives me great, great privilege that I could lead a team now off competent facilitators that are going now all across the country. As I'm talking right now, we've got facilitators all over all around the country engaging with someone almost disengaged young people within those educational settings on, you know, helping him to make positive decisions. So thank you very much.

Camilla Turner:

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much to all our panellists for opening the discussion today. Now I think we've all been aware of this huge rise in violent knife crime and stabbings among teenagers and young adults in the last year or so, whether we've, whether it's happened in your school or in your neighbourhood or your community, or even if you just watched it on TV and kind of seen, the horror unfold of the parents and the family, and just related to it and thought how terrible it all is. I thought I wanted to ask our panellists today. What do you think is driving this recent rise we've had? I mean some point to grime music, some point to movements in the international drug trade. But whatever it is that there must be something creating this increase. And what would you say that is? Shall we start with you?

Dave Thompson:

Yeah, I think it's, we like to look for a very simple solution around crime. Generally, this is really, I think it's really complicated. So, you know, if you look at the position I think young people find themselves in today, they're incredibly digital connected. They’re 24 hours a day, kind of streamed in, you know, to what's going on, what's happening, things escalating, the lives they've got. Spectrum of choice is gigantic, what people can do. So for good choices and bad choices. There are some trends that taking place on which, sometimes might be good things. So you know, there is some evidence that young people drug taking has dropped a little bit off sometimes of drugs. But that's coupled with the time where drug purity has gone up. There's much more competition in drug markets, you know, some of these county lines you were talking about before you know.

So gangs are going out into other areas because actually, you know, there's a bit of saturation sometimes in some of our areas around drug availability and so there are a lot of factors going on. As well as you know, frankly, we see with some of the gang involvement, you know, people don't have loving parents, but actually, because of now, the cost of living, the challenges people face, parents are not around as much either. And so we're seeing some examples of involvement in gangs because of the absence of parenting. I think just to address the issue talked about exclusions in schools, you know. So I don't think anyone's got an empirical evidence round that. The challenge, I think with exclusions, we were talking before about 16 to 18 year olds. We think it's great they're in education at 18. Some of the contact time they have in class is almost nothing. They’re doing courses, whether they’re in 2 or 3 hours a week, they're not in the workplace, where they’re mixing with older people, they're not growing up, they want money. So that cohort of 16 to 18 year olds really worries me at the moment as to what they spend the time doing because actually, the education that they're doing is either ill-suited or on occasions not connecting. And then there are some occasions of the off rolling. The issue, I guess I'd say, is if people are not in your care or were saying they're in education but they're not engaged. Actually, who's looking after them? There is an absolute pressure for young people, I think, for money, for acquisition, for wanting to self actualise quickly and get things quickly and I think that creates pressures around how they acquire that and access that.

So there's no one thing going on here. There's lots of things and of course there has been probably a little less capacity in some areas to do things about this, but there's no one thing in this space I would say.

Camilla Turner:

Arnold

Arnold Yousaf:

Yeah, I agree. I agree it's not one thing you need a case by case approach because it’s different for each individual, and it's not something that, when we're looking at actual way, why some people get involved in criminal activity and gang involvement. It's always been the same. Okay, when we look at the individual and why they get involved. First of all, we need to look at their emotional needs and then everything else that affects that externally. That may change. But when we're talking about emotional needs, young people are not running away from youth crime and gang involvement and exploitation. They're running to it because they're finding their identity, their sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, acceptance, empowerment, direction, significant security, safety, I could carry on okay, stuff that we all want as humans, but they find them within the contents of a gang or within the context of criminal activity. OK, on top of that, there's other factors that will kind of also be a catalyst to that but also accelerate that as well. Such as, you know, trauma, being in a household where there’s been domestic violence, domestic abuse, mental health, also talking about drug misuse, adverse childhood experiences. Okay, you might have a young person that got raped by the Grandad when they were nine years old, and that's giving them if inferiority complex and a skewed perception of love and they’re lonely and they want love and you know, there's so much that goes into it for each individual. OK, the reason that young, a conventional profile, talk about a conventional profile I identified the elephant in the room, we’re talking about black and minority ethnic within social housing, social economic problems presenting complex and these are multiple issues.

The reason they might be getting involved in it might be different to the Caucasian teenager that's just 13 years old in Dorset that's from a middle class background on an affluent background that's getting involved in the county lines that's getting run by, you know, a Liverpool OCG. Okay, they might be involved in it because of boredom and adrenaline and glamorisation and everything in their town closes at nine o'clock. But then we need to look at the emotional needs, the trauma, adverse childhood experiences, parental neglect, all of these things internally, and then how the external effects in the external stuff is stuff like austerity. The external stuff is like the national curriculum, making education very one dimensional, meaning that we're equipping young people for qualification, but not for life. We're teaching them the circumference of a circle and how to dissect a frog and Pythagoras. But we're not talking to them about healthy relationships. We’re not talking to them about managing their finances or enterprise. We're not talking to them about conflict resolution. We talk about how 25% of serious violence is coming from drugs. But I could talk about areas in London where I'm coming from. So I'll, speak for London, but also this's mirrored within the Midlands. Within the Midlands, in places like Birmingham and Manchester as well, where young people are getting involved in gang rivalries and they're not making money at all is nothing to do with drugs, Okay, but it is because there's this emotional need and they’re using that as a platform to find acceptance, to earn respect, to find their belongings and people that will recruit them, will see a young person and say, Okay, they want money. I'm going to put them around money. Okay, they want respect, I'm going to give them the opportunity to earn respect. They won't belong, I'm going to put them around a lot of people make them feel like they belong. So it’s their emotional needs that are actually getting targeted. Everything else is affecting it, such as austerity, national legislation, glamorisation is a massive thing, okay, because we're talking about grooming, but when it comes to a county line.

Nowadays you don't even have to groom a young person to sell drugs for you anymore, it's so glamorous to them because of stuff like instant gratification and viral culture and celebrity culture on and you know, other mediums such a social media and the music industry. A drug dealer will have 20 numbers that they can call any young person that is already willing to work for them and they don't have to groom them do not have to manipulate them that don’t have to take them on a shopping spree or do any kind of favours or take them through that four step grooming line that Bernardo's made where they target them, make them friends, is a loving relationship stage, and it goes on to abusive stage.

They don’t have to do none of that because the young people are so glamorised. You've got 12 year olds that feel like they need money. Why does a 12 year old need money, okay. There's all sorts of issues that come into its own. It's a complex solution. We need fluidity in our approach. We need a case by case approach and when we're looking at the why’s, we need people that understand it from a ground level. So when we're looking at liaising with government, we need to embed people that I've been through it with lived experience to advise government to help implement strategies to be embedded within schools and work along safeguarding teams so they can help them understand local intelligence. Help them understand the signs and indications that a young person’s presenting. Also that will help towards complex safeguarding and on other issues to minimise risk and reduce it and ultimately deter them on and prevent them from getting involved in that lifestyle.

Camilla Turner:

Fantastic, thank you. Now Mark.

Mark Brindley:

I think between the two of you covered the subject pretty well. It occurs to me that there is one thing that we haven't quite touched on, which is actions and consequences, and I think that the criminal justice system has a large part to play in the disconnect between people's actions and the consequences or the avoidance of consequences. So I think that's something that is critical to the discussion. You mentioned music. I definitely agree. Drill music is glamorising violence. It's glamorising lifestyle and is recruiting. That is a big driver, I believe. It started in London, and it's coming through the country to everywhere near you.

Camilla Turner:

Fantastic. Well, I'll ask one more question before we open up to the floor. So just a reminder for you all to think of some questions for the panellists. Now we know some schools are doing fantastic work throughout the country, really finding innovative and bespoke solutions to their communities to try and really keep children in the system and make sure they don't get down the path of violence or crime or gangs or anything like that. But since we're all here to learn, and if you know no one takes any offence, I'm going to ask the panellists. What do you think schools doing wrong? Do you think there's anything that you come up against again and again, where schools aren't quite getting it all? They're doing something wrong, or perhaps it's a problem with the system where it's going wrong and if you had a message to give to all the school leaders we've got here. Is there any kind of misconception that you want to overcome and tell our audience about today?

Mark Brindley:

That's the one question I'm not sure I've got an answer to, thank you. I've only been in this sector for 12 months, so I'm new to it. But I have found that certain teaching professionals I think that if they're in schools from middle class areas with nice young children who well behaved that they don't have an issue. I say, if you believe that you're burying your head in the sand, the issue is not restricted to deprivation, to money, to class or anything. It's everywhere and affects everybody. So don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

Camilla Turner:

Any other thoughts?

Arnold Yousaf:

Now, for me, it was just about just emphasising on the holistic approach, making sure that education is not one dimensional. Everything from what we're teaching young people, we could turn around. I made a statement about you know, the national curriculum, educating young people, equipping them for qualification or not for life. And they're looking at stuff such as healthy relationships, managing finance, having a holistic approach that equipping young people for the big world, right? We could turn around and we could say, well, that's the parents problem, they need to be doing that in the household. But the issue is we've got stuff, external issues I was talking about, such as capitalism, consumerism, all that stuff where the parents are too busy out working in some of these households on.

We need to look at our expertise and our sphere of influence within our remit and see how we can help towards, you know, supporting a young person and equipping them in the right way. Looking at a lot of young people, we need to kind of look at their learning preferences as well, not just looking at “read write”. We realise that our teaching techniques need to be tailored to vocational learners. They need to be tailored to kinetic learners, audio visual learners. Okay, and it's about being creative and looking at education in a way that's relatable to them. Okay, some of my most, I wasn't at school for most of the time because I was being excluded or, you know, I was skipping school to sell drugs, just to be honest with you. But my most memorable lessons that I did have is when my English literature teacher would say, all right, scrap Shakespeare.

Let's look at the linguistic devices within a rap, you know? I mean, or you know what in maths, let's look at how you know you could put this in an actual real life business situation and you can actually set up a business and make money. And let's look at taxes and stuff like that. That's what you would remember, because this stuff that I'm actually going to have to go out on and apply. When we're looking at exclusions the way I see exclusion is simple. It's like prison is like social housing. It’s common sense, if you're going to get individual that's got behavioural issues okay and is very vulnerable, and you exclude them from the general population and you put them in the environment just like prison. When you surround them with other young people that have behavioural issues. You become what you surround yourself with. Okay? Prison is not a deterrent. When I went prison, I was around other people that had a criminal mindset. Just let me. All it did was boost my criminality. Okay, so because you become what you surround yourself with, that's like having someone that's, you know, a recovering alcoholic and taking them to the bar every day. Sitting them around existing alcoholics and expecting them to change it doesn't make sense. I can't think of any other country apart from the UK and America that is pro exclusion that excludes their kids. We look at a zero tolerance policy on knives and drugs. You might have young person, some of the people in referral units an alternate provisions I'll go to, you've got a young person that was in top set for everything. They get caught with a knife because they're scared and instead of being trauma informed and working with that young person talking to them about conflict resolution, minimising the risk, understanding the local intelligence, safeguarding that young person, you exclude them and you increase their risk.

So now that young person that was in top set for everything has now gone into a pupil referral unit with other young people that are bullying them doing the right things for being a bookworm all because they carried on because they were scared to death. When they go into that, they’re going to continue to carry them out because that behaviour is going to be normalised to them. So it's about being innovative, and I think it's about also the stuff that you don't have expertise in. If we're looking at knife crime, we’re not expecting you to reinvent the wheel and sit down on the PSHE lesson and teach young people. I don't know whether you're a middle class teacher from Kent or whatever to talk to them and speak to them in slang and engage with them about knife crime. Use people that are experts on that, they're talking to them about mental health, sexual education, healthy relationships, knife crime, gang involvement. Partner with external agencies that's part of that public health approach. Utilise that instead of making your lives even harder trying to come up with this new curriculum to tackle the issue that people are experts on and are already tackling.

Dave Thompson:

So I would never go to the point of saying nobody’s doing anything wrong. So you guys who are teaching are a bit like me. You joined your professional as a vocation. I don't think any of us did it to get rich. We did it because we care passionately about what we do. I care hugely about policing UK, hugely about young people. That's why you're in this profession. Some of what we talked about today, this subject blows my head, you don't know where to start and the answer is starts somewhere because there is no right place to start is really complicated. I suppose the right place to start is you values as professionals that you went into this actually to deliver for young people. The pressures on you as schools and has headteachers is just enormous. So trying to, I think keep a really strong sense of the values that are important in your school. What's really important, right? You know what we do a lot of work on values in the organisation because we deal with some tough stuff.

We can get lost along the way sometimes as to what's important. I'm sure that happens in terms of teaching, and as a police profession I'd say there are more sad people and bad people in life and some of the people who present as bad are just deeply sad and feeling unloved. So I think my view would be, honestly, I agree with the point that trying to keep people in education, trying to keep people positive, focused, show people care and that they’re valued if you guys can't do it at school the rest of us are really going to struggle frankly, because, you know, we're not professional people necessarily who’s out there giving big love to people. Frankly meeting, you know, that sense that me searching, tonnes and tonnes of people is going to solve this is absolute madness. You know, I look at some just brilliant examples I think we see in the West Midlands. One of the ones that I’ve seen in Aston. If you asked, and if you know, the West Midlands is a pretty tough old place. I find it fascinating when I go in that school that the kids in that school feel really safe. So I think it's a really interesting thing, actually, that you create a safe school where people feel safe and they don't feel safe by kicking people out of the school, they do it with the right attitude. Some stuff we do with them, we run a cadets scheme in the force now. We don't run it in nice areas where lots of young people already want to join the police join. We run it in schools that are challenging, because actually, it's actually something appeals to young people, it works really well.

So my analogy is, you joined because of your vocation, you value young people, trying to drive up the values of wanting to care and care for everybody in the school, make the school a safe place. I suppose the final thing I'd say about the school sector for us outside, you've just got really complex, you know, in old territory, we go to an LEA or we go to a school. I mean, it's free schools, it's academies, it's this, it's that, you know, you're really hard to link in to. So maybe there's something sometimes like we see with our school's panels that you try and form some networks around the community, so it makes it easier to have a conversation with the professionals. You're far more intriguing as a group of headteachers in an area or for us to come in link in with to do work as a group. It’s devilishly hard, trying to get round everybody and find the right person or the right lever or the fight accountability structure. So maybe there's something about how you can help us link in with you a bit better.

Camilla Turner:

Fantastic. Well that’s some really useful practical advice to end on there. So now we're going to open up to some questions from the floor. So we've got some on Slido. Okay, great. So right. Most popular question here is “what would you say to a 13 year old boy who you know is carrying a knife?”. Arnold should we start with you?

Arnold Yousaf:

What I would say to a 13 year old boy was carrying a knife. First of all, I'd like to understand why he's carrying a knife for various different reasons. One of the main reasons you might be carrying the knife is because we call it an F an F, fear and fashion. Okay, because he's scared or because, you know, it is something that is glamorising this and is fashionable. But I would have to sit down with that young person and, carrying the knife is a by-product of a mindset. Okay, we have to look at that mindset, and we're trying to get a change in the mindset shift. So the way that we do is we start breaking down what carrying the knife actually means, meaning that every time you step out that door with that knife, are you actually prepared to kill someone? Okay, are you prepared to talk about the law? Are you just holding that knife? You get four years? When you might be holding that knife to actually make yourself safe. But you need to understand that there's more to it than that.

Okay, so a 13 year old might be carrying that knife. Say that thirteen year old says to me, oh, I'm carrying it and I'm just going to brandish it, and I actually don't want actually go and stab someone but I'm scared for my life because I got people after me. Then we have to actually look at what's really going on there. When you meet those people say you stab them and they don't step stab you back, which is very unlikely, okay, because knife fights are close range. If you're going into a knife fight and you're trying to stab someone that's going to stab your back is very likely that they're going to stab you back right. But say that even happens. They've got people that love them. If they're gang affiliated, they've got other gang members. Now you've got people after you. Things escalate. I went growing up, I went from fist fights to knife fights to gun crime. It escalates. It got worse and worse. And it became addictive is well, it became a self defence mechanism. What I'd have to do is look at them, talk to them about using their mindset. I'd have to break down the realities and the consequences, talk to them about serious injury, talk to them about long term imprisonment, talk to them about retaliation and how that works, okay. The paranoia, there's stress that you have when you actually had to go and use a knife on someone and then the people that you've got problems with their might have not been knife carriers before but now they're not stupid enough to go to a knife fight with their fists. So the root of the knife crime is a mindset of how you deal with conflict. And it will be about teaching that young person how to deal with conflict in a nonviolent, calculated way, looking at how he can use his mind and use his words and understand the long term ramifications of carrying the knife. Because when you actually go and you use that knife, as we all know, you're looking at double figures GBH, attempted murder, murder.

Okay, but then also, I need to understand the risk is well, so they'll have to be risk assessment. If that young person is carrying the knife because they're in an estate that's fight in another estate that’s 1.5 miles away from that young person and the people that are trying to kill them, they’re actually separated by a park then we'd have to look at maybe getting other agencies involved, assessing that risk and doing a relocation and then doing intense mentoring kind of look at that mindset and you can't expect someone to change without giving himself nothing to change to. So they carry a knife to feel safe, but how are they going to feel safe after. It’s one thing to relocate them, but if they still have that mindset they're still going to be carrying the knife. So it's about changing that mindset with and alternative by teaching them how to deal with their conflict in assertive, nonviolent and calculated manner and teaching them how to do that effectively.

Camilla Turner:

Now the next question, “how do you think the updated keeping ‘Children Safe and Education Guidance’ relating to children involved in crime will help improve outcomes for Children?” Dave should go to you for that one?

Dave Thompson:

So it's not a product I'm familiar with. If I'm really honest,

Camilla Turner:

Yeah

Dave Thompson:

It's education guidance. So I don't think they help you around, you probably got a better idea. I suppose the bit I would say, is that policing and you know, children services. Other departments now are much more focused on the violence issue as a safeguarding issue now than that we were. So we've been through this journey, I think on safeguarding a lot of emphasis in the early phases on things like child sexual exploitation. There's been a move, I think now we things like county lines of violence to begin to look at safeguarding. We do a lot of work closely with our local authorities. So we embed staff in multi-agency safeguarding hubs. So we've got police stuff in that environment. We’re also increasingly working directly inside local authorities in early help hubs. Our staff are actually, you know, we've done a lot of work around trauma or worse stuff. They understand adverse childhood experiences, so we do a lot of work of referral in around the vulnerability. So I suppose the thing I would say really for me in terms of schools, it's how you link into those issues because some of those things you have an offer what you can deliver, some of those things, there's a broader level of intervention. I think some of those will be covered in that Children keeping safe. Maybe it needs a little bit more broadening to widen the perspective around safeguarding on what we talk a lot, whether it's matching what safeguarding is talking about in schools.

Camilla Turner:

The next question. I think we'll go to Arnold for, “75% of our prison population have been excluded pupils. Is it time to outlaw school exclusions to better meet the needs of vulnerable pupils?” What do you think?

Arnold Yousaf:

Yes, I was basically talking. I'm saying I'm anti exclusion from my last comments as well. It's about when you're excluding someone. You're basically putting a label of rejection over them by keeping him in that population you're keeping it inclusive and you're showing that actually you still care about them. There's young people that have been excluded that have not just been rejected. They see it as not just a rejection from teachers and you know the school, which is an authoritative institute in their life. But they might have had rejection from, you know, the household. Being in a long parent family. They might find that rejection from a sense of fatherlessness, or it might be the maternal aspect as well. So you're adding to that to that push factor of them feeling neglected and rejected.

So with exclusions. I feel like we need more discretion, and it needs to be a balance between having that no tolerance policy and obviously, using discretion and understanding that you're just increasing this young person's risk. A lot of young people that are going to alternative provision and people referral units. They actually walk in with the label now they feel rejected. They feel like, okay, my education is over because I got kicked out of school and I'm just in a PRU now. I need to look at alternatives. So it’s about actually we're moving those labels, keeping them in school, saying you're very much part of the school and, you know, letting them know that you're not going to give up on them. But you just have to change your strategy on how you can work with this young person looking at the emotional needs and looking at if you might have to sign post them to clinical supervision, looking at other things that could be done before you exclude that young person.

Camilla Turner:

Thank you, we're better over time. But I just want to do one final question. This is something Mark touched on earlier. “What strategy could you recommend for a child who is from on paper a good family but is now involved in drug dealing as a result of extreme peer pressure?” Mark, what do you think?

Mark Brindley:

Well, the first question is drilling down to the reason behind that drug dealing. Underneath it is a reason why they feel they need to turn to that and that needs to be explored. They need to learn how to deal with peer pressure and how to make well informed decisions and that is part of any education I think that children need today as part of their PSHE curriculum. It should be embedded. So what is the answer? What strategy? Well, early intervention as early as possible, being non-judgmental, dealing with the issues, particular emphasis on family functioning and the attention the child is getting and resilience in dealing with peer pressure.

Dave Thompson:

So I mean, I'm into the question of good families, so I perhaps just raise the issue that how we bring our values to work around this stuff, you know, so quite often issues about police discrimination and kind of how we operate. We do a lot of work thinking about unconscious bias, our values approach to people. What is good family? We might spot the features of good parenting support, but I think sometimes we could bring values into that judgement. Let's be honest. You know the question here about how many people are excluded in prison and the one about should it be against the law. Personally, I prefer vision and policy and not lots of law, and I enforce it. Keep having lots of laws is a bit of a cop out, but I think there's a real kind of agenda here that says, actually, a high proportion of the young people I think are also excluded are black and ethnic minority. And I think there's a considerable amount of values based activity as to what we deem is good, supportive and how we interpret behaviour. So all that work around values are talked about in all that work about unconscious bias that feels to be really important because I think some people are really trying and are providing really good support. We sometimes might not recognise it because it presents, in a different way

Camilla Turner:

Fantastic. Well, I think we've run a bit overtime, So better wrap things up there. But thank you so much to all our fantastic panellists. It's been so great to have you all here with us today.

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