STUDENT Support champions will be on hand in schools across Newcastle, as Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness funds a new Violence Reduction Unit initiative in a bid to drive down youth violence and knife crime across the region.

The new project launches following what has been a tragic few months for Tyneside, where the lives of two 14 year olds have been unnecessarily cut short as a result of youth violence.

Now, as part of major plans from the Northumbria Violence Reduction Unit, eight secondary schools will become the first to benefit from having student champions on hand to offer support on local youth violence issues.

As well as working with young people, including those believed to be at risk or involved in violent crime, the student champions will work closely with schools, police, council and community services, to prevent crime from happening.

The champions will be working with individuals and small groups, with the focus of the new roles being on building trusted relationships to encourage young people to seek support.

Young people will also take part in educational sessions covering the dangers of knife crime, how to keep themselves safe, and the consequences of violent crime.

The project aims to improve school attendance and behaviour, reduce suspensions and exclusions, strengthen community links and prevent serious youth violence.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness said “Education is a key component in our fight against crime, that’s why it’s so important to engage young people at the earliest opportunity. The Violence Reduction Unit is committed to stopping the cycle of criminality and already has a dedicated team delivering vital awareness sessions to schools and community groups all year round, but this new project will take it a step further by giving young people access to a trusted adult in their own school, on a regular basis. The team will be able to identify young people in need of support, work with them to understand their needs and refer them to services and interventions to provide help for them and their families.”

She added, “By giving young people access to information, support and opportunities, we can improve their lives, enable them to have positive aspirations for the future and divert them from a life of crime.”

For more information, please contact the Northumbria Violence Reduction Unit by email