Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner has secured a further 12 months funding to tackle serious violence and its root causes, but has called for a long term approach from the Government.

The regions Violence Reduction Unit, led by Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, will spearhead the preventative approach to tackling serious violence across Northumbria for another 12 months after receiving a third round of Government funding.

Since launching, the Unit has contributed to the regions decline in crime, serious violence, and fall in number of knives used on our streets. Though the Commissioner believes even more could be done if the Government tackled serious violence with a long term approach.

Going into the third phase of their work, Northumbria VRU will again be focusing on supporting the region’s most vulnerable young people, providing interventions and diversionary activities, as well as working in the heart of communities to build resilience and relationships.

Kim said: “Funding this work for another 12 months is absolutely the right thing to do – but we cannot keep approaching this with a year on year approach, the Government need to properly finance this with a long term strategy.

“In the 12 months since the Unit launched, we’ve seen a 10% fall in knife crime – this was reducing even before the pandemic hit. Whilst obviously pleasing, it is frustrating to think what we could truly be achieving if we had the knowledge this was going to funded past the 12 month guarantees from Government.

“In our plans for the next year, we are looking at life changing work – not something that can just be delivered with a few weeks’ notice and a short term approach, this is intensive work with some of the most vulnerable young people in the region. We are stopping them being exploited for criminals personal gain, preventing them being involved in County Lines, and diverting them onto a positive lifestyle path.”

Running until the end of March 2022, the year ahead will see the unit invest in a range of direct interventions and programmes, including an expansion of their Community Hub and Link Worker model – taking services directly to communities most in need. The Unit currently fund Hubs in Southwick, Gateshead and Howdon, with a further 3 planned in the coming months.

A further three areas will also benefit from funding to provide a Link Worker, adding to the already funded programmes currently supporting communities in Gateshead, North Tyneside and Northumberland. The roles focus on building relationships with those in the community at risk of becoming involved in violence, and often use those with lived experiences to mentor those identified from following this route.

The expansion of the programme promises to provide vital support services, having already successfully worked with families & individuals around issues including; domestic abuse, drug misuse, anxiety, mental health concerns, school exclusions and housing support.

However, not all was a positive – the Commissioner has warned that as lockdown eases and the economy feels the impact of the past 12 months, crime has the potential to rise unless preventative measures like her Violence Reduction Unit, are the focus of Government plans.

Kim warned: “Whilst we are all looking forward to restrictions easing, and getting back to some form of normality, not everything will be as it was before. I am concerned about the lack of opportunities for young people come the easing of restrictions.”

“There is likely to be significant challenges in regards to youth employment – something we know can lead to increased vulnerability. We are exploring options around this, having discussions with employers and providers, and will continue to support the regional recovery post-pandemic.”

The third phase of Northumbria VRU will begin in April 2021.