School Home Support works with a number of young people who are or have been at risk of knife related crime. A strong multi-agency approach, clear information sharing, and knowledge of the local area and its resources are fundamental in safeguarding young people. I recently attended a conference organised by The Major’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to discuss the Mayor’s Knife Crime Strategy where the increasing prevalence of knife crime in London and the UK nationally was discussed. The conference focused on the need for further collaborative working between schools, the police, and local voluntary organisations and charities to safeguard young people at risk of knife crime.
A London school presented a unique approach, involving the school introducing safety arches (body scanners) and random bag checks to ensure that children are not bringing knives or other dangerous weapons into the school. Texts are also sent to parents informing them when no items were found.
The school have also forged strong links with the local police force and have a dedicated School Safety Officer (SSO). The SSO:
- delivers presentations on safety strategies for parents
- arranges meetings to bring together the local community to protect young people
- organises the on-site Volunteer Police Cadets which is a strong diversionary activity for young people.
Through this joint working and collaboration they have raised awareness of this issue and increased community cohesion.
‘I began working with Ben* in Year 8 as the school had increasing concerns for his safety and the possibility of him being groomed for gangs. I also worked with mum on installing effective boundaries in the home and referred her to a local parenting class for additional support.
We discussed a safety plan with Ben about coming home on time after school and ensuring that he accepted the school’s support in accompanying him to the school gates, taking the bus straight home to be met by his mother. I referred Ben to a local youth club so he could attend diversionary activities, such as football sessions and courses on building healthy relationships. Through intensive direct work with Ben at both school and home, Ben admitted to being threatened and assaulted outside school. This was immediately reported to the police, with an urgent safety plan implemented at school and special measures placed on Ben’s home to ensure the police responded quickly to any call out. Clearly, it was becoming increasingly difficult to control his safety. His mum decided that Ben must move schools due to increasing risk to him in the local community. I supported mum in completing an application to a different school as well as referring Ben to the local Youth Offending Team for additional diversionary support.
I completed an urgent referral to children’s social care and supported mum in approaching the local housing department with all the police reports, in order to apply for emergency re-housing. The family were moved outside of the borough into an area far away from ongoing risks.
Ben was immediately assigned a mentor to ensure that the same risks did not present themselves again in the new area. Finally, an important handover meeting took place at the new school so the Designated Safeguarding Lead and relevant professionals were aware of the previous risks and how to support Ben effectively.’
It is fundamental when working with young people at risk of knife crime and possible gang affiliation that professionals involved are aware of on-going risks through regular meetings to discuss emerging concerns and share information. It is also vital that the School Safety Officer is involved in ensuring the safety of a young person at school and in the local community, as they may be able to bring additional intelligence and local information.
Early intervention is one of the most important factors in preventing future knife crime and this means starting prevention programmes and awareness raising sessions in primary schools. This will ensure young people build resilience as well as ensuring that parents are supported at an early stage to develop effective parenting techniques.
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Daniel Jarrett, Safeguarding Manager
School Home Support
*Names have been altered to protect identities