In the Media

Anti-gang strategy gets just ?1.2m of new money

PUBLISHED November 1, 2011

While ?10m is to be 'redirected' from other areas of Home Office, only ?1.2m of extra money will be made available for new plan Only ?1.2m of new money is to be made available over the next three years to fund the government's refreshed anti-gang strategy to be detailed on Tuesday by the home secretary, Theresa May, and the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. A further ?10m is to be "redirected" from other as-yet unspecified areas of Home Office work into a cross-government package, which will stress that the problem cannot be left to the police alone and that only partnerships working with doctors, social workers, and teachers can make inroads into the problem. The effort will be driven by a 100-strong anti-gangs taskforce bringing together existing work on the problem. The 50-page cross-government report, Ending Gang and Youth Violence, will acknowledge that gangs did not play as prominent a part in the riots as first thought. But it will warn that there are as many as 200 rival groups in London alone with more in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Plans have been floated for a possible new discretionary life sentence to be introduced for those convicted of supplying guns, but the measure will not be included in the legal aid, sentencing and punishment bill now going through parliament. Instead ministers will say that the are "looking at" the move, which the Association of Chief Police Officers has been calling for over the past two years. Cabinet ministers have been impressed by the cross-partnership efforts in Glasgow to reduce gang-related violence using shock tactic meetings with judges and doctors to persuade identified gang members to find pathways out of their behaviour. But this kind of intensive high-profile policing is expensive and there will only be limited Whitehall funding available to develop them. Instead the emphasis will be on local agencies, including the police, to decide on the best local anti-gang strategies from their own resources. The extra ?1.2m is mainly to be focused on innovative schemes that are designed to tackle the hidden scale of gang-related sexual violence and to help the young girls involved in gangs who become victims of sexual assault. Ministers fear that as many as 10,000 children could be exploited in this way. The strategy also emphasises "early intervention" with healthcare workers, social workers and teachers being encouraged to identify and work with problem families where children are at risk of drifting into gangs. In an interview with the Sun , the home secretary said: "It might mean working with toddlers. It is at that age you sometimes identify a troubled youngster. If they do get into gangs, we will then try to get them down a pathway out of them. But there will be those that persist and for those you do need punishment." May said that looking at case studies of young people who got involved in gangs, there were often lots of points in time when an official intervention could have changed their lives. "That goes for primary schools, hospitals, children's services and even housing departments. This isn't a problem for the police." Doctors in accident and emergency departments have been encouraged for the past three years to share with police anonymised information about victims who come in for treatment with gun and knife wounds so a more complete picture of local gang activity can be built up. Now ministers want to station youth workers in hospital A&E departments so that they can contact and work with gang members who come in for treatment. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the strategy was being launched as anti-gangs funding was being cut across London. She said that community safety budgets for London boroughs, including Haringey, where the August riots started, were being reduced by up to 50%. Haringey's money was falling from ?413,000 to ?206,000. "Behind all the rhetoric, the reality is that Theresa May is making it harder not easier to tackle gangs and cut crime. The loss of 16,000 police officers and cuts to community safety funding in some areas by 90% will undermine work to deal with gangs and violence in communities across the country," said Cooper. Gangs Communities Young people Crime Theresa May Alan Travis © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds