Serious violence prevention

Developing a system-wide approach for serious violence prevention providers working with young people (aged 16-24 years) at risk across Cornwall.

Local crime figures show that the incidence of serious violence is increasing in Cornwall, and that young people aged 16-24 years are amongst those most likely to be victims of assault-related injuries, while violence-related offences are more likely to be committed by 26-35 years olds.

In 2022, we produced a research report looking at serious violence prevention service development. This report presented an open and wide-reaching overview of current provision for young people involved in serious violence across Cornwall.

Work is now underway to pilot new ways to improve and add value to existing provision and practice, improving outcomes for young people.

The aim of this project was to map existing service activity and support for young people, identify best practice and provide an opportunity to influence the development of services on which to base a 2023 pilot.

This research was commissioned by Safer Cornwall’s Serious Violence Prevention Programme Steering Group and funded by the Peninsula Serious Violence Prevention Partnership, as key activity for the peninsula-wide strategy ‘Breaking the Cycle’.

Serious violence prevention is identified as a high-risk theme in Safer Cornwall’s Partnership Plan 2022-25.

Evidence was gathered over three months in autumn 2022 using online surveys, focus groups in-person and online, facilitated conversations, mapping of existing provision and gap analysis, and data analysis of Devon and Cornwall Police crime figures.

Current provision
Through our service mapping, we identified 44 statutory and voluntary service providers operating in the context of serious violence prevention for young people aged 16-24 years.

The following groups were widely supported:

1) Parents of young people.

2) Perpetrators of serious violence against young people.

3) Victims of serious violence perpetrated by young people.

Every participating organisation offered multiple forms of community-based services including restorative justice (23%), housing (29%), health (55%), education (48%) and wider support (52%) e.g. coaching, mentoring and counselling.

Services mostly adopt a trauma-informed approach to the assessment of young people involved in serious violence, with little variance in services distinguishing between support for those at risk, involved in, or victims of harm.

Key findings
Cornwall is an area passionately committed to safeguarding young people and their families, with highly knowledgeable and passionate people working together to bring about positive change, improve lives, and reduce risk.

Cornwall’s unique geography as a remote and rural region creates challenges for practitioners to serve isolated communities and address deprivation. Contributors also described their own operational challenges within a system that is both, ‘under-funded and overwhelmed’.

A strong consensus emerged around priority areas for investment and development. Practitioners expressed an unmet need to work, proactively, at lower thresholds of harm. Young people experiencing medium-level involvement, or risks of becoming involved in serious crime urgently require preventative interventions that promote growth as well as protection.

We combined the learning from local insights with best practice delivery models from elsewhere in the UK to create tailored recommendations to support the commissioning of pilot initiatives:

1) Pilot a ‘medium risk’ prevention project to offer intensive support for young people involved or at risk of serious violence and not meeting statutory thresholds.

2) Commission a relationship-based intervention to add value to existing services, working with young people.

3) Provide ongoing support to embed a contextualised and trauma informed approach to young people’s safeguarding.

4) Further investment to secure a system-wide, sustainable offer for young people.

Our immediate proposal involved the commissioning of a pilot on preventative intervention, targeting young people at medium-risk of involvement in serious violence, who are beyond the reaches of community provision but not yet formally involved with statutory services.

It is intended that the broader recommendations will be used to plan for the phased implementation of a strategic and sustainable approach to vulnerable young people, using relationship-based interventions to work directly with young people from 11-25 years, and to commission specialist interventions in high-risk areas such as county lines exploitation.

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