Council hopes to bring different agencies together but questions remain over funding, report Judith Burnett and James Cracknell
A new partnership for tackling violence in the borough has been launched by Waltham Forest Council.
Based on a model successfully used in Glasgow, the Waltham Forest Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP) brings together the police, schools, NHS, and voluntary sector; aiming to crack down on violence such as knife crime.
The partnership was launched at Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College by Waltham Forest Council leader Clare Coghill, who was also joined by Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith. It followed a report published by campaign group Waltham Forest Citizens and drawn up with help from local schools, which called for early intervention, a halt to cuts, and fewer school exclusions – amid rising rates of violent crime in the borough.
Dame Louise Casey, a former government advisor, was the keynote speaker at the launch event. She said: “We have to listen to families who live with a bereavement caused by murder and manslaughter and understand that it is a different experience.
“We have to ask; why is this happening? What is it about our system that we can’t compete with drug dealers and gangs? We must provide alternatives, through working with the police, education and health, and keeping our children warm, fed and at school.”
Pledges made as part of the VRP include putting 10,000 primary school children through a life skills resilience programme over the next three years; enhanced support provided for children identified as vulnerable during the transition from primary to secondary school; greater support for children exposed to early trauma, such as witnessing domestic violence, with swifter access to mental health services; and council and police co-operation to target crime hotspots in the borough.
At the partnership launch council advice team Waltham Forest Youth Advisors presented its programme Streetbase, which sees around 35 young adults helping to signpost services and supporting communities around the borough. Janzab described his experience of moving around schools while growing up and called for more mentoring and early intervention, while Nicole spoke about the lure of a criminal lifestyle and said: “We need to come up stronger against these guys [gang leaders], creating work and making it much harder for them.”
The young people’s group also called for more positive encounters with the police, compassion in education, and better quality work opportunities.
Also speaking at the event was Police Superintendent Ian Boles, who welcomed the new, multiagency approach. He outlined efforts to improve stop-and-search activities by providing extra training for officers and working with young people. Councillor Grace Williams, the council’s cabinet member for young people, added: “We are all part of this effort. We know that it [violent crime] is not normal, and we will not let it become so.”
However, there has been criticism of the council’s recent efforts to combat youth violence and the lack of extra money being made available to fund the new VRP. Nick Tiratsoo was director of the Better Way Partnership, a previous effort by authorities in Waltham Forest to co-ordinate crime prevention work across different sectors, until 2016. He told the Echo: “Questions should be asked about why there has been a hiatus [following the end of the Better Way Partnership] and why they are now launching something similar to what they had been running a few years ago.
“My calculation is they are probably spending less money on this work now than what they were in 2012. There needs to be community involvement – it is foolish to run a programme with just the police and the council. You need that community partner to help gather intelligence, so it is not another top-down experiment where people are marginalised.
“You can’t arrest your way out of this problem.”