Safety of children and young people remains our top priority
26 February, 2021
Romario Opia, who was aged 15, was fatally stabbed in Archway last month
• YOU were right to shine a light on the ever-important issue of tackling serious youth violence and knife crime, (At the school gates, the murder victim this time was just 15 years old… so why no national debate? February 19).
The death of any child or young person is heart-breaking and can send shock waves through entire communities, with long-lasting and far-reaching effects.
This is why the safety of our children and young people remains our number one priority, sitting at the heart of everything we do.
I am grateful to Michelle McPhillips, whose son was tragically killed in 2017 and who has become an important voice in our partnership working, for speaking positively about our early intervention programme.
I would also like to thank Michelle for taking part in our knife crime prevention film Love and Loss. Featuring families who have lost children to knife crime, it will be used as an educative tool to deter young people from carrying knives and weapons.
The pandemic has inevitably meant adapting the way we work, but it has not shifted our focus nor dimmed our determination. In fact last year we made continued progress in tackling youth violence.
The latest police figures available, for all of 2020 including the first two national Covid-19 lockdowns, show an 18.1 per cent reduction in youth violence in Islington, and a 9 per cent reduction in knife crime injury victims aged 1-24 (excluding domestic abuse) compared to 2019.
In addition we have reduced both the number of first-time entrants into the youth justice system and the reoffending rates of young people already involved in the criminal justice system.
Since the first lockdown began, at the end of March 2020, we have worked hard to ensure we are still reaching and supporting the children and families most in need, and our approach will be modified when the lockdown eases.
Schools have remained open for the most vulnerable children throughout the pandemic and we have maintained visits to the children, young people and families already open to Children’s Services.
Detached youth work has also continued across the borough through Targeted Youth Support and partner agencies such as CYP and Prospex, while we are still screening and assessing all new referrals of children possibly at risk.
We followed National Youth Agency guidance so our youth centres – Lift, Platform and Rosebowl – have remained open throughout most of the pandemic, providing online and digital youth services, detached and outreach local youth services, and direct sessions with high-need and vulnerable young people.
There are also knife bins located across the borough where knives can be disposed of safely and anonymously.
We will also be launching a new universal youth work offer later in the year – it’s often forgotten we spend more on youth services than most councils in the country and have not cut early intervention or universal services for young people.
In addition we incorporate learning from serious case reviews, carried out in Islington and other boroughs such as Newham and Croydon, to improve professional practice across the partnership.
Whatever happens with this pandemic, we remain absolutely determined to continue investing heavily in our innovative prevention and early intervention work to address underlying issues, such as abuse and neglect, as well as diverting young people away from crime and violence.
We are seeing encouraging results and our new five-year Youth Safety Strategy sets out how we – and our partners such as the London Violence Reduction Unit – will build on this progress to help keep our children and young people safe.
The strategy is available at www.islington.gov.uk/youthsafety and includes new initiatives to address the issues fuelling youth crime, including domestic violence, school exclusions and the social, emotional and mental health challenges many young people in the borough face.
Anybody who is worried about a child or young person can call the Children’s Services contact team on 020 7527 7400.
CLLR MICHELLINE NGONGO
Executive Member for Children, Young People & Families