Posted on 25 Apr 2023

New report launched by campaigners and grassroots groups say government neglect is damaging communities and investment in young people is needed

  • Groups call for a new approach to serious youth violence, including better funded youth services and a rolling back of police powers to build trust with communities
  • Meanwhile 7 in 10 members of the public (69%) say the government needs to look for solutions that tackle the root causes of violence, and three quarters (74%) want to see more funding for youth services

A groundbreaking report launched today by a coalition of grassroots groups and campaigning organisations has called for a new approach to tackling serious youth violence, with the powers of the police rolled back and more funding and support given for young people to thrive. The groups argue that the government are harming communities by failing to invest in young people, and say that the policing of young people, particularly young people of colour, is damaging their futures.

Authored by nine organisations working across human rights, youth safety, racial justice, mental health and policing, ‘Holding Our Own: A guide to non-policing solutions to serious youth violence’ advocates for major investment in trauma-informed and racially literate support for young people to prevent harm, build trusting relationships and support them with issues they face. The Report also calls attention to the ways in which the rhetoric around – and subsequent government action towards – serious youth violence continues to be underpinned by racism and ignorance around its root causes.

Education is central to the proposed new approach, with the report calling for an end to school exclusions, the removal of police from schools, and better training for teachers to understand the needs of pupils experiencing racism and discrimination. It also calls for an end to drugs policing, an end to racist joint enterprise prosecutions, and for greater justice and accountability following deaths in police custody.

Meanwhile, new polling figures show a high level of support for more funding to support young people. Three quarters (74%) want to see the government spending more on funding for youth services, and the same number say they are concerned by the impact of cuts to these kinds of services – with funding cut by 70% over the past decade.

The polling figures, released today, also reveal high levels of concern about policing in the UK, with four in five members of the public (81%) concerned about police officers abusing their power.

Police abuse of power, and particularly their treatment of young people of colour, has come under intense scrutiny in recent months following the strip search of a Black schoolgirl known as Child Q while on her period. A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner found widespread abuse of the power to strip search children, with thousands of children strip searched since 2018. In over half of cases, no appropriate adult was present. The report also found that Black children were eleven times more likely to be strip searched than their white peers.


Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said:

“Whatever our postcode or the colour of our skin, we all deserve to grow up in communities where we are cared for, and given the tools we need to flourish in life.

“But instead of investing in young people or providing support to deal with the causes of social problems, the government has given the police more powers to try and tackle the symptoms of these issues. This has led to more and more people being treated unfairly by the police, rather than being given the help they need.

“Our communities need investment, so that together we can create spaces and services that we know will give our young people the best chance in life. And we need to roll back the powers of the police so no-one faces harsh and traumatising treatment at the hands of police.

“Holding Our Own, launched today, provides a vital blueprint for how we can undo the harm currently being done to our communities, and instead build a society where all children are given the chance to thrive.”

A spokesperson for the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) said:

“We’re so energised by this joint call for community-led solutions to what gets called serious youth violence.

“Often, we see calls for increased and expanded mental health services as something that could help tackle the root causes of violence. Our contribution focusses on the ways in which traditional mental health services can be places where people face violence through coercion and restrictive practice.

“We call for resourced community care so that communities can respond to distress in ways that prioritise care, choice, and freedom.”

Andre Gomes, Communications Lead at Release, the UK’s national centre of expertise on drugs and drug law, said:

“It’s widely understood that the drug war has failed to control drug related harms, having instead become a mechanism of state and racialised control over minority communities in the UK.

“The criminalisation of drugs and their policing create an excuse for police to harass, strip, and traumatise young people of colour.

“The decriminalisation of drugs, which has already been implemented in over 30 countries, would be the first step towards removing police presence from people’s lives, and set the path to fund other non-carceral activities.”

Jessica Pandian, on behalf of the charity INQUEST, said:

“Serious youth violence is directly linked to the state’s long-standing marginalisation of working-class young people and the decimation of youth services of which deaths in custody are at the sharpest end. Over our 40 year history, we have worked with countless bereaved families of young people who have died police-related deaths.

“Young Black people are disproportionately likely to die police-related deaths. Furthermore, their deaths have revealed racial stereotyping, equating young people with criminality and dangerousness, and use of racist narratives around gangs and drugs. This strongly reflects the systemic anti-Black racism embedded in policing policy and practice. In addition, the deaths of women have exposed the institutional sexism and misogyny in policing.

“In the short term, we need to make the post-death processes more truthful, just and accountable. In the long term, it is imperative that we move away from policing as a response to social problems and invest in communities.”


The groups that contributed to Holding Our Own are: Liberty, Northern Police Monitoring Project, Release, No More Exclusions, National Survivor User Network, INQUEST, Maslaha, Kids of Colour, Art Against Knives, and JENGbA.

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