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Violence Reduction Summer Conference

This week members of the VVU travelled up to Newcastle to attend the Violence Reduction Units (VRU) summer conference. This was hosted by Northumbria VRU and attended by the 20 VRUs / VVUs across England and Wales, alongside Home Office representatives.

The conference was co-hosted by Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and David Grahame, Home Office Deputy Director of the Serious Violence Reduction Unit.

Key topics covered included education, non-domestic homicide and engaging communities through insightful targeted campaigns. The Home Office team spoke about the successes of the work of VRUs to date, as well as highlighting the importance of sharing best practice and evidencing effective joint working both locally and nationally. The sessions were engaging and allowed positive discussion across VRUs, including sharing learning around the implementation of the Serious Violence Duty.

Northumbria VRU showcased the work they have achieved in Education, working with young people identified as vulnerable and/or at risk of exclusion from schools. They highlighted an excellent piece of work around project-based learning. Northumbria VRU has an education team who offer standalone sessions to schools, colleges and community groups covering a range of issues identified by the VRU, for example knife crime, malicious communications and drugs and alcohol. The students are offered an 8-to-10-week programme and from the commencement the young people are encouraged to plan how they want to run the project and what their learning aims are for completion. It was evident that this approach allowed the young people to feel engaged and a sense of ownership for achieving the project aims. They use a range of resources to present the work including music, videos and posters which are all showcased at the end of project events.

We heard from headteachers who felt the project had helped in reducing school exclusions and in supporting safeguarding of young people. The schools also felt that the VRU had supported a more joined up approach in information sharing, which helped in supporting the young people to make positive changes. The project-based learning is in a number of schools and alternative provision in Northumbria and due to its success is looking to be expanded including looking at supporting transitional pathways from primary to secondary schools through adopting the project-based learning approach.

This approach has been evaluated by Newcastle University.  There was evidence that the young people have ‘bought into’ the work and feel a sense of ownership and pride. Through this positive engagement in addition to raising awareness and identifying strengths, we saw examples of young people forming trusted relationships which led to them feeling safe to ask for support and guidance.

From Essex, we shared the work and planned expansion of the ReRoute project (our work with young people and young adults through pre-court routes, identified from police activity, where an individual is suspected of violence and / or possession of class A drugs with intent to supply) and the outcomes we are achieving with this group, on a voluntary basis. There was interest in the Prison Project intervention previously delivered in Essex and a keen interest into how we achieved this and discussion around how this approach could be linked to education within the community.

We would like to thank Northumbria for hosting us in Newcastle.