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New investment in evidence-based programme to reduce serious violence in Leicestershire

Young people and adults who are involved in violence will be given a new opportunity under a US-inspired programme rolling out in Leicester City and the surrounding County.

The new intervention – The Phoenix Programme – has been designed by the partnership behind the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Violence Reduction Network and is co-funded by the Home Office and the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF). It is based on a tried and tested approach known elsewhere as ‘Focused Deterrence’. The approach was pioneered in Boston (USA) in the mid-1990s to address an escalation in serious violence and later used effectively in Glasgow in 2008 to tackle the city’s gang-related violence problem.

Research has shown that in cities around the world Focused Deterrence strategies reduce crime by an average of 33%. Now, it’s about to be adopted in Leicestershire.

While Leicester and Leicestershire remain relatively safe places to live, data shows that a small group of young people and adults, who are connected through their involvement in crime, are driving the local serious violence problem. Analysis shows that they have previously experienced trauma, victimisation and a range of challenging circumstances but are now causing harm to themselves, their associates and local communities.

International research indicates this group requires a different approach which pro-actively secures their engagement and offers a swift, tailored and tangible package of intervention addressing the root causes of their involvement in violence.

The Phoenix Programme will deliver this new approach through a multi-agency team involving Leicestershire Police, the Probation Service, the Youth Justice Service from both Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council, and Community Navigators recruited from local communities by delivery partner, Ingeus. This team will work collaboratively with participants, building trusting relationships and secure swift access to tailored and credible support such as mentoring, concrete education, training and employment opportunities, mental health services, housing advice and other services and community-based provision that address underlying issues in their lives and enables them to build a more positive future.

However, participants are informed from the outset that swift enforcement action will be taken if the offer of support is turned down, they later disengage and/or their violent behaviour continues.

Delivery of the Phoenix Programme will start in late June 2023 and continue until August 2025.

The Programme will be supported and scrutinised by a multi-agency working group and the VRN’s Community Oversight Group (COG). It will also be subject to a national evaluation funded and co-ordinated through the YEF and the learning shared across and beyond the UK.

Grace Strong, Strategic Director at the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Violence Reduction Network, said: “The aim of the Phoenix Programme is simple: To make our communities safer for everyone. The VRN partnership, has carefully designed this programme, drawing on what has been proven to be effective elsewhere and tailoring it to our local serious violence problem.

We know the most effective way of securing long-term change is to directly address the reasons why young people and adults are involved in violence. The Phoenix Programme seeks to do this through a credible and concrete support offer whilst carefully balancing this with the deterrence of swift and certain enforcement if concerns persist.

The team are now in place, they have the support of a committed partnership and they will meet with the first participants this week.

We look forward to continuing to work with the YEF and the national evaluators to ensure the impact of the programme is understood and shared across and beyond the UK.”

Jon Yates, Executive Director at the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Focused Deterrence has worked around the world – reducing crime by over 30%. It’s time to know whether it can work in England. Violence is not inevitable – we can bring it down. The important thing is not about being tough on crime or being soft on crime. The important thing is being smart on crime - we need to do what works.”

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