We must start giving youth a voice to tackle the root-cause of knife crime

At least 2,579 weapons were seized by police at schools between April 2015 and the start of 2017 according to figures obtained from 32 police forces in England and Wales. In 2016-2017 alone there was a 20% increase in the number of weapons seized in schools on the previous year with some arguing that the real figure is much higher as many police forces either declined to respond to the Freedom of Information request or provided fragmentary data.

In the context of what police chiefs have dubbed a “worrying increase” in the number of young people carrying knives, our CEO, Dominique Airey and our Delivery Director, Damian Castello, were invited by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme as well as the BBC and ITV lunchtime news to comment on why young people may feel the need to carry knives and what can be done to tackle this.

Our approach, through our preventative and rehabilitative work, is to understand and tackle the root causes of violent and/or disruptive behaviour. Both Dominique and Damian made clear in their interviews that above all else, the young people we work with state that their primary reason for carry a weapon is because they do not feel safe in their communities. Khulisa is not the only charity involved in direct delivery work with young people to argue this. Patrick Green, manager of the anti-knife crime charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, highlights that from his experience most of the young people who hold the assumption that carrying a weapon will keep them safe have been victims of crime in the past who fear further victimisation.


Many pupils come from different areas which may be in conflict due to postcode rivalry

Damian argued during his interview with the Victoria Derbyshire programme that one of the reasons why some children feel the need to carry weapons as a means of protection arises from the fact that “many pupils come from different areas which may be in conflict.” This is particularly true in the case of the demographic of pupils that we work with. The majority of the pupils we work with live in urban areas and are at risk of offending and/or exclusion. According to statistics obtained by the V & A Museum of Childhood in partnership with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, young people living in urban, deprived communities who experience “educational problems appear to see themselves as particularly vulnerable to knife-related incidents.” 43% of the children interviewed who study in Pupil Referral Units say that they carry knives as a means of protection in contrast with 24% of pupils in mainstream schools who submit the same.

Based on figures obtained by The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (https://www.vam.ac.uk/__data/assets/file/0011/247916/teen_knife_crime_booklet.pdf)
"Education is the first form of prevention" - Damian Castello, Khulisa's Director of Delivery

Our evidence and experience working with thousands of young people has taught us that central to  tackling  this issue is giving  children and young adults a safe space to express themselves through a network of trusted adults. This calls for more than a Youth Justice response focusing on the symptoms but rather needs a coordinated approach for teachers, parents, police and other community actors focused on engagement and prevention.

For us, as Damian said to BBC 1’s lunch time news team, “education is the first form of prevention.” In delivering our flagship Face It behaviour change and personal development programme, we currently work with children as young as 11 years old with a view to help them improve their emotional literacy and resilience so that they respond to their fears without resorting to violence and crime.

No one organisation can tackle a complex  issue such as knife crime – Khulisa is dedicated to working with a number of different public, private and third-sector organisations to help young people feel safer in their communities, develop their emotional literacy and prevent them ever feeling that their only option to stay safe is to carry a knife.

Given the link between social exclusion and crime, Khulisa is particularly interested in developing strategic partnerships that will support longer-term outcomes including: further education, employment and housing to develop a whole-system approach to offender management and diversion.

Interested to learn more or collaborate with Khulisa? Please find out more here.


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