Council leader underlines commitment to ten-year plan to cut youth crime
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
The leader of Haringey Council has underlined his commitment to a long term plan designed to stop young people getting caught up in crime.
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor said the council will continue to invest in young people as its finances face ongoing pressure because of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Haringey Council launched its Young People at Risk Strategy in 2019. It is a ten-year plan to reduce the borough’s level of serious youth violence, defined by the Metropolitan Police as “any offence of most serious violence or weapon–enabled crime where the victim is aged one to 19.”
More than a year later, a council report revealed there had been a decrease in the number of victims of serious youth violence in the borough – although it added a “significant proportion” of the reduction “is attributable to Covid-19 and the lockdown.”
With the council facing an estimated £70 million hit to its finances from the coronavirus pandemic, Cllr Ejiofor says he is “committed to investing in young people.”
He added: “We continue to believe that investing in young people is an investment in the whole community.”
“I’m not promising we will have additional year–on–year investment, but I will certainly be championing that we should maintain the current level of investment in youth services as a baseline.”
The Young People at Risk Strategy includes the Haringey Community Gold scheme – a network of youth work and community programmes set up with the help of £1.5 million of funding from City Hall.
Cllr Ejiofor said that while he did not want to suggest the funding was ringfenced indefinitely, the council aimed for it to continue.
“We are actively looking at how we can ensure funding continues, and part of that is being able to show this project is a success – and if it is a success, we would expect to be able to get it funded going forward,” he explained.
“The council will obviously have to look at what its alternatives are, but young people are, and will continue to be, a priority. While I am in this office, I will continue to ensure we can invest in young people as best we can.”
There were 346 victims of serious youth violence in Haringey in the twelve months to January 2019.
In September, a council report revealed there were 283 victims in the year to July 2020.
Cllr Ejiofor said the council’s actions were already having an impact, but that it would have a better understanding of this in two or three years.
In 2018, the local authority dropped plans for a £6.5 million youth zone in Wood Green following concerns young people from many parts of Haringey would not be willing to travel long distances to the site.
Cllr Ejiofor said the council remained committed to setting up a “youth space” within Wood Green. “Hopefully, in the next three to six months, not only will we have identified that, but we will be close to getting it open,” he said.
Bradley Goddard, a youth mentor and health and fitness facilitator working as part of Haringey Community Gold, said he believed the scheme was already making a difference.
“If you look from the beginning of the programme, we’ve engaged just over 2,000 people,” he said.
“This year alone, we have engaged just under 700, and 550 of those have gone on to doing positive activities.
“If you compare that to probably the last three years, that is a huge number.”
The activities youngsters go on to take part in include employment, additional training and roles on the borough’s Youth Advisory Board.
Mr Goddard’s programme, My Training Plan, involves fitness sessions and weight training with groups of young people. It is promoted by outreach workers, who visit schools, housing estates and other areas to encourage youngsters to take part. After the fitness sessions, he offers one-to-one mentoring.
“It’s tough, it’s gruelling, but we use that as a medium to demonstrate the toughness of life and that you can get through any challenge if you put hard effort, determination and the work ethic and mindset to it,” he explained.
“Through doing that, we get close enough to sit down to kids and talk to them on a one-to-one level, and that’s where the mentoring comes in.”
Mr Goddard said the coronavirus pandemic was initially “devastating” for the programme, but the situation had improved after restrictions on people meeting outdoors were relaxed by the government.
The fitness coach said low self esteem was one of the main barriers faced by the young people he encountered.
“The limiting beliefs these kids have are mind-blowing. I ask have they ever been encouraged, motivated, stirred up to do better? They will approach nearly every task with ‘I can’t do that’. It’s not a lazy ‘I can’t do that’ – it’s a genuine ‘I have assessed the situation and already determined I can’t do that’.”
Mr Goddard claimed some young people did not see themselves as having opportunities, believing there was no point in trying to pursue certain careers because they appeared so far removed from their everyday lives.
He said he used to have similar beliefs that held him back. But while he was working in a supermarket, he began a fitness course, started working at a sports centre and went on to manage a gym within the space of just seven years.
“These kids really do not believe in themselves, so when you’ve got the alternative to that, which is the easy money, the easy lifestyle – all the things rappers rap about – it’s hypnotising and feeds into this low self–esteem,” he said.
“As a people, we need to look at our young ones and say ‘how can I do a bit better for this child? We need to sit down and look at our children and say ‘can I do a little bit better?’”
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