Ground-breaking work to prevent young people from being drawn into serious violence in Leicestershire has been secured for another 12 months.
The Home Office has awarded Leicestershire’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN) funding worth £880k to continue its innovative work with young people and vulnerable victims of violence throughout 2021-22.
Nationally, the Government is investing £35.5m into the 18 Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) across England and Wales over the next 12 months – bringing total investment into the project to more than £105m.
VRUs bring together specialists from a range of sectors including health, education, policing, criminal justice and local communities to address the underlying causes of violent crime.
Since launched by Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lord Willy Bach in August 2019, the VRN has offered vital support to young people at risk of knife crime and violence.
The multi-agency team has funded 38 local community projects, delivering frontline intervention that has reached more than 2,400 people. Further funding from the Home Office for Winter Contingency Funding will significantly boost this work.
Working with Lord Willy Bach the VRN has also developed a pioneering Community Leadership Programme, appointing passionate and driven members of the community to take responsibility for safety in their areas and work to reduce harm and vulnerability.
The scheme will support and develop 40 community leaders over the next two years, with 20 leaders already recruited from a diverse range of communities and backgrounds.
Meanwhile, the VRN has delivered Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma Informed Practice virtual workshops to almost 700 attendees from across five different sectors in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR). The sessions aim to improve understanding and awareness of the driving forces of violence.
Welcoming the funding boost, VRN Director Grace Strong said: “This is fantastic news for the VRN team who are already making great strides in turning young and vulnerable people away from violence.
“Our projects offer real solutions and have not only stopped young people crossing the line into offending for the first time but also prevented many returning to it by opening the door to a new future.
“This funding will allow us to build on the positive relationships we have already developed and transform many more lives for the collective good of our communities.”
Willy Bach added: “This is a great boost for Leicestershire and follows another truly exceptional year for the VRN.
“Protecting the lives of young people is essential to our strategy and we are determined to do much more to remove the obstacles and risks that drive violence and exploitation.
“We could not do this without the commitment and passion of our community partners who work tirelessly to change lives and never give up. I am delighted we can continue to support their vital work throughout 2021-22.”
The VRN has brought together a host of partners from across LLR including the Police, local authorities, probation, the Prison Service, Community Safety Partnerships and community groups.
Its Violence Reduction Board has expanded this year to include representation from the voluntary and community sector (Voluntary Action Leicestershire) and Leicestershire & Rutland Sport.
During the past year, the VRN has continued to roll out its successful Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Programme and is now operational at seven schools across the county with 86 staff trained.
The programme, which is based on the ‘bystander approach’, empowers pupils in Years 10 and 11 to take an active role in the safety of their school by looking out for their peers and promoting a positive atmosphere.
Through MVP and other interventions, the VRN has reached 12,539 people and has continued to consult young people throughout the pandemic, leading virtual engagement sessions, led by the PCC and Deputy PCC, with more than 50 young people under the banner ‘You Talk We Listen’.
Its ‘Are You Listening’ film aimed at raising awareness of the issue of Child Criminal Exploitation has also had overwhelming support and positive feedback, reaching an audience of 500,000 people over social media.
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