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SUPPORT FROM NORTHUMBRIA POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONER TOTALS OVER £1 MILLION AS KIM MCGUINNESS OUTLINES PLANS TO KEEP CRIME IN THE REGION FALLING

With fears that the pandemic could create a ‘lost generation’ of young people, widen the education attainment gap and lead to an increase in vulnerability, Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner responds with a further £135,000 to tackle crime in the region.

Recent analysis by the Office of National Statistics showed positive signs for Northumbria – from March 2019 to 2020 the area recorded less total recorded crime, a reduction in knife related offences and a fall in serious violence offences. Whilst this was welcomed by Kim McGuinness, Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner, the PCC is already looking ahead to the next 12 months

Kim said: “This is clearly very positive news – a reflection that investment into my Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), and through proactive enforcement work by Northumbria Police, we can improve lives to prevent crime across the region. My concern now, is how we ensure we see crime continue to fall in the year ahead.”

“Young people are telling us that they need some extra support this summer, and we will be there to help them. Through my VRU we are allocating a further £135,000 to organisations to tackle the financial challenges arising from Covid-19 in order to help and support vulnerable children.”

A total of 21 organisations will be funded by the PCC, with the grants supporting micro-charities who are working with vulnerable young people at risk of being involved in serious violence. This announcement will bring the total amount of funding provided via the Police & Crime Commissioner, during the Coronavirus pandemic to the regions charities and organisations, to over £1 million.

To ensure the funding is supporting the most vulnerable and in need areas, the PCCs Violence Reduction Unit consulted with 14 to 25 year olds during lockdown to understand the challenges faced during this period and what support may be required as they return to education and other settings in September.

The consultation, which received high engagement as well as praise from education providers & youth organisations, raised key concerns across the respondents in relation to mental health, health & wellbeing and employment support.

Kim said: “I was delighted with the response we got to our youth consultation – over 1300 young people telling us their lockdown experiences and how we can support them going forward. This insight will be crucial in guiding our work and ensuring services are available to provide interventions that will address their vulnerabilities.”

“We know that young people have been more vulnerable than ever during this period, and we cannot let that materialise and lead to criminality. This funding will allow charities to deliver positive diversionary activities and help guide these individuals in a positive direction.”

The funding will not only support young people, but also charities who have been incredibly hard hit during this period as funding uncertainties and lack of support risked the future of many in the sector.

David McGuigan, Project Manager of Longbenton Youth Project, highlighted the importance of this funding on the future of their organisation.

David said: “The grant allows us to bring back our workers from furlough on a part time basis and continue the fantastic work we have achieved since opening in May 19994. Without the grant we may well have never re-opened again and that would be a huge tragedy for those young people we serve.”

Responses to the VRUs youth consultation highlighted anxiety from young people about returning to school and community settings, a challenge overcome by Sporting Chance, one of the organisations funded by the PCC.

Jamie Cairns, Director at Sporting Chance, explained how the funding has been used to support young people during the summer holidays. Jamie said: “We have adopted an open door policy for young people during the lockdown and summer half term which has become a success, however for some young people it has become a norm to not attend the provision therefore home visits have been conducted to provide the support required along with empowering positive behaviours.”

“Each session has been tailored to the individual need of the young person and so far has included; supporting with emotional well-being, offering support to parents to encourage positive behaviours within the community and ensuring young people are safe.”

A full list the funded interventions can be viewed here. The funding, provided by the Home Office, comes as part of an additional £2.9million fund to the 18 Violence Reduction Units to support the VCSE sector.

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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, has praised the region’s rural volunteers for their help supporting a series of successful clampdowns to keep countryside crime down.

A new report by published by NFU Mutual last week revealed their efforts have paid off as last year saw the North East record the lowest regional increase in the cost of rural crime – an increase of just 0.4 per cent.

Despite the good work happening to tackle this crime, the small increase still brings the total cost of rural crime across our region to £8.6m, which the Commissioner points out is far too high.

Voicing her concerns, she said this will only get worse if our rural areas become the forgotten priority in the government’s Spending Review this autumn.

The Spending Review is where the government sets out spending plans for the next financial year, allocating monies to each different department, determining where taxpayers’ money will be spent.

Many predict budget cuts are looming, as the country tries to build itself back up following the impacts of Covid-19.

This year the Commissioner ensured there has been funding to grow police vehicle fleets and buy vital tools to help rural policing, something she fears won’t be possible if the funding of our police service is stripped right back and we return to a time of austerity.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “As these numbers show, we’re fortunate to be the region that’s seen the lowest increase in the cost of rural crime, and for this we must give credit to Northumbria Police and the dedicated volunteers that we are lucky to have on board.

“That said, we’re still hit by rural crime that costs our region millions. That’s not even taking into account everything that gets left unreported. Whether it’s the theft of livestock, quad bikes, cars – it doesn’t matter, it can all have a devastating impact on victims and their families. For me, it’s not just about practicalities and money, it’s the worrying mental impact and fear felt by those targeted – you can’t put a price on that. Rural crime has to be thrown into the spotlight and must not become an after-thought for the Government at a time they’re going to be looking to make big savings.”

She continued: “Right now with the wider impacts of the virus rippling through all aspects of society, we’re going to see an impact on rural crime but the need to protect rural policing is very much on my radar.

“I promise to continue with our plan to recruit more local people from rural backgrounds so they get it, they know the nature of the crimes and the way the communities work. I will continue to do all I can to make sure we are funding victim services and youth groups in our isolated neighbourhoods to make sure we are looking after those in need and helping prevent crime.

“And we must not forget rural areas are not immune to other awful crimes like county lines and domestic abuse, far from it. Tackling all this is only made possible if Government chooses to fund policing properly. Right now, we need more investment in our force, not less, if we are going to get a real grip of rural crime.”

Last year the national figure for the cost of countryside crime was £54.3m – the highest it’s been in eight years and an increase of almost 9 per cent on the previous year.

For the second year running, the report points to a sharp rise driven by thefts of high-value tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles. Livestock theft also increased in 2019, with organised gangs taking large numbers of sheep, which are thought to be entering the food chain illegally.

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A ground-breaking programme from Action for Children which diverts young people away from a life of serious organised crime is being rolled out to Newcastle.

As part of a roll out across the UK to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Cardiff, funded by £4.6 million from The National Lottery Community Fund, Action for Children with Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council, will work with families and schools in communities over a three-year period.

The programme, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will target vulnerable young people on the cusp of serious organised crime such as drug supply and distribution, money laundering, stealing to order and illegal enforcement. It will offer targeted support to 11 to 18-year-olds through intensive one-to-one support, peer mentoring, education and employment training.

Today, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, and senior members of the Police and Newcastle City Council joined representatives from Action for Children for a launch event on the innovative project which is designed to help some of Newcastle’s most vulnerable children and young people.

John Egan, director for England at Action for Children said: “Serious organised crime is an issue for the whole of the UK, disproportionately impacts the more vulnerable in our communities, and has a greater presence in socially and economically disadvantaged areas.

“Since 2013 this project has worked intensively with more than 150 young people across Glasgow, diverting them away from a life in serious organised crime and into employment.  As we bring the project across the border, the success from Scotland will lead the way in helping reach those most at risk in Newcastle.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council, which will help ensure every child and young person has a safe and happy childhood, free from the dark grip of serious organised crime.” 

Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Over the past 12 months my Violence Reduction Unit have been working hard to improve lives to prevent crime, so the launching of Action for Children’s latest serious organised crime programme is very much welcome in Newcastle.

“Young people now are more exposed to criminality and negative life choices than ever before – so additional mentoring, support and education around the impact of criminality will have a profound impact on its participants. By understanding the root causes and what leads people to offend for the first time, we can then support and deter them away from a life of criminality, improve their resilience and promote positive life decisions.

“I fully support this programme, it’s approach and desired outcomes – my VRU will be working hard with Action for Children to ensure this reaches our most vulnerable young people and positively impacts on their lives.”

Judith Hay, Director of Children, Education and Skills at Northumbria City Council, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of the serious organised crime project in Newcastle. This is a great initiative that has clearly made a huge difference to the lives of young people at risk in Glasgow.

“The introduction of this programme into Newcastle will without doubt impact positively on the lives of our young people who are at risk of involvement in serious crime. The key to engaging young people in all walks of life is the quality of relationships that they have with key adults. This programme offers as the core of its operations intensive one to one support and a trusted mentor who will help our young people navigate the many obstacles that they face.

“Newcastle has such strong partnerships across the council, police, health, voluntary and community sector – a key success factor to deliver innovation – and I look forward to seeing the difference this project will make.”

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LOCAL domestic abuse support services predict their referrals will soar when children head back to the classroom this September, and we must be ready for it says Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness.

In recent weeks, Kim has spent time with a range of organisations that support families who have experienced domestic abuse. All are predicting that when school gates re-open there’ll be a surge in the number of young people needing help to cope and recover from experiences at home.

After what was, for many, a worryingly low number of referrals during the peak of lockdown, many victim services are now reporting a sharp increase as the easing of lockdown enables more victims to reach out for help.

One such service is Gateshead Domestic Abuse Service, which has seen an almost 40 per cent rise in referrals over the last six weeks, in comparison to this time last year. The difference not only highlights the increased risk of abuse during this time but also reveals the devastating impact on young people.

Although referrals are on the up, there are still many children at home suffering in silence, ‘and it’s these children we have to shine the light on and rescue’ says Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness.

She explained: “Schools provide so much more than an education for our children. Walking through the school gates can be like entering a place of sanctuary for some. It’s these children who have had the longest, toughest summers and seeing the friendly, familiar face of a teacher may lead them to open up about their experiences at home.

“There will also be those who aren’t ready to talk but fortunately, through initiatives like ‘Operation Encompass; The Next Steps’, which I fund through my Violence Reduction Unit, we have many teachers in our region who are trained to spot the signs so they can help.

“In fact, many of the services I’ve spoken to have praised their education colleagues for their continued efforts in finding ways to get out and speak to families of concern, even while schools are closed. Some teachers have played a really valuable part in keeping strong links to support going, and to them we are very grateful.”

Earlier this year PCC Kim McGuinness launched the Children Affected by Domestic Abuse emergency fund, which made £120,000 in Home Office funding available to specialist organisations. The money was to help children at risk by supporting services adapt to new demands as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. One organisation that benefitted from funding was Acorns in North Tyneside.

Kim continued: “There’s been a lot of talk about the rise in demand for services during lockdown but we now have to prepare for the aftermath of lockdown – an expected surge once term starts. Fortunately, services like Acorns in North Tyneside and Gateshead Domestic Abuse Service, have been planning for this for some time, recognising this is a crucial period in a much wider recovery. Now is the time to give those who have experienced abuse a voice, encourage them to share their experiences so they can be supported and move on with their lives.

“Of course the pockets of funding from Government have been welcomed but throwing small pots of cash at the problem won’t fix it. It’s a start, and yes we are seeing society, the media, MPs and so on are all talking about the problem more, which is great, but we need a long term funding commitment to ensure help reaches everyone. What we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s crucial we now look to prevent future generations accepting abusive relationships as the norm, they’re not and there is real work to be done improving lives to prevent this appalling crime.”

Cllr Gary Haley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead Council, said: “In Gateshead we have long recognised the traumatic impact that living with domestic abuse has on those affected, including children and young people. Aided by funding from the OPCC, Gateshead Council’s Domestic Abuse Team continues to reach out to adults and children affected by domestic abuse to let them know that they are not alone. The Domestic Abuse Team offers holistic practical and emotional support to keep children and adults safe, break the cycle of abuse and aid the road to recovery.”
Abby Burton, Project Manager at Acorns Project in North Shields, said: “We know from our work that early intervention and support can make a huge difference to adults, children and young people who have gone through these very traumatic, usually multiple experiences of domestic abuse, giving them the best possible chance of recovery. It is imperative that fami-lies are able to reach out, and when they do, that our services are there for them, not just in the short term, but over the coming months and years”.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can report an incident by ringing 101 or visiting www.northumbria.pnn.police.uk. Also in a non-emergency situation you can text the police on 07786 200814.
In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.
The OPCC commissions a range of specialist support services for children and young people affected by domestic abuse. More info can be found here.
Help is also available From Victims First Northumbria, who can be found at www.victimsfirstnorthumbria.org.uk or on 0800 011 3116.

PHOTO: Kim and the team at Acorns

 

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