Ministers taking 'shameful hands-off' approach to tackling youth violence, MPs warn
Ministers are taking a "shameful" hands-off approach to tackling serious youth violence, a group of influential MPs has warned.
In a damning new report, the cross-party Home Affairs Committee blamed policing cuts and a lack of ministerial accountability for creating a "perfect storm" behind soaring numbers of attacks.
Police-recorded homicides have risen by over a third in the past five years, while recorded knife crime offences have shot up by more than 70% over the same period.
In 2018 then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the Serious Violence Strategy with a commitment to introduce "robust" new policing methods as well as a £22 million fund for early intervention projects.
But MPs blasted the "completely inadequate" measures within the strategy, as they said a failure of "leadership and focus" had led to a "serious mismatch between the Government's diagnosis of the problem and its proposed solutions".
The report added: "It contains no targets or milestones, few new actions, and no clear mechanisms for driving forward activity at a national and regional level.
"Nor does it suggest a clear Government focus on keeping young people safe from rising levels of violence."
Instead, the committee said Boris Johnson should appoint new accountable leaders in every region of the UK to oversee and report back on efforts to stamp out serious crime.
And it also called for the establishment of a "Youth Service Guarantee" to boost the number of early intervention schemes.
Committee chair Yvette Cooper said: "Teenagers are dying on our streets, and yet our inquiry has found that the Government's response to the rise in serious youth violence is completely inadequate. They just haven't risen to the scale of the problem.
"The rhetoric about a public health approach is right, but too often that's all it is - rhetoric. There are no clear targets or milestones, and no mechanisms to drive progress.
"To publish a weak strategy and convene a few roundtable discussions just isn't enough when faced with youth violence on this stage. The Home Office has shamefully taken a hands-off approach to this crisis, but it is a national emergency and must be treated like one. They need to get a grip."
Meanwhile, the group also called for dedicated police officers to be deployed to schools in areas with higher-than-average levels of violence.
The Labour MP added: "Serious violence has got worse after a perfect storm of youth service cuts, police cuts, more children being excluded from school and a failure of statutory agencies to keep them safe. The Government has a responsbility to deal with this crisis urgently.
“Far more needs to be done to intervene early in young people’s lives, making sure they have safe places to go to and trusted adults to help them and protect them from harm. So much of this support has been stripped away, leaving children vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups."
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The committee’s assessment fails to recognise the full range of urgent action the government is taking to keep our communities safe – including extra police powers and resources.
"The Prime Minister and Home Secretary last week announced the recruitment of 20,000 more officers and a new national policing board, which will meet for the first time today, to drive the response to critical issues including serious violence.
"Police funding is increasing by more than £1bn this year, including council tax and £100m for forces worst affected by violent crime."