Young voices heard on tackling gangs and youth violence.

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Young people got to voice their opinions on the August riots and tackling gangs in a face-to-face discussion with Home Secretary Theresa May and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith today.

The Cabinet Ministers joined in a debate with a panel of young people from Lambeth, Southwark, Haringey, Waltham Forest, and Croydon at the Safer London Foundation (SLF), the official charity of the Metropolitan Police, which works to ensure young people’s views and concerns about crime help shape local policing priorities.

Later in the day the Home Secretary met with anti-knife campaigner Brooke Kinsella and young people involved in projects supported by the Ben Kinsella Fund at the Home Office.

The Home Secretary, who is leading a cross-government programme of action on ending gang violence, has been talking to police forces up and down the country as well as to local agencies, charities, youth organisations and others involved in front-line work to tackle youth violence. The Home Secretary will report to Parliament on the cross-government work on gangs later this month.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

“Gang and youth violence can blight individual lives and whole communities and it is important that young people themselves are part of the solution.

“The vast majority of young people make a positive contribution to society and often in the face of some very big challenges. But where young people are at risk of being drawn into gangs we are looking across the breadth of their lives and at all the interactions they have with government, the police and local agencies to offer them a way out.

“Clearly the issues involved can be complex and vary from place to place. But we are determined to encourage and enable local areas to develop effective strategies for tackling gang and youth violence and ensure that the police and local partners have the powers they need.

“It is a comprehensive, co-ordinated and systematic approach aimed at finding long term and enduring solutions rather than the short lived initiatives we have seen in the past.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:

“Gangs are having a devastating impact on our most deprived neighbourhoods. The violence they perpetrate leaves communities living in daily fear, feeling powerless to do anything.

“Tackling this is a key government priority. Local communities, including their young people, should be supported to deliver a clear message that enough is enough, and local agencies, police and the voluntary sector can together provide the services needed to stop the violence. Those gang members who want to exit gang life should be helped to do so, but those who continue to commit violence should feel the full force of the law.

“Only by effectively working together can we turn the tide of gang violence, and in doing so transform the lives of the young people and families in those communities.”

In the afternoon the Home Office hosted an event for anti-knife crime and anti-serious youth violence projects run by and targeted at young people, administered by the Prince’s Trust. The Home Secretary, Minister for Crime Reduction and Anti-social behaviour reduction, Lord Henley, and Brooke Kinsella met with the young people involved and Prince’s Trust Young Ambassadors to discuss the work they have done in their own communities to target youth crime.

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