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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced that his Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), the first in England, is investing a further £1.2 million to boost youth work in London.

New VRU funding will support 200 established youth workers further develop leadership skills, better manage conflict involving young people and support those affected by violence and trauma. 

Youth workers often play a vital role in a young person’s life, but the work they do is not always recognised or valued. The Rise Up programme, which is delivered by London Youth, is a response to listening to youth workers about what they need. This funding will help youth workers gain more skills, confidence and experience to be even more effective in supporting young people in the capital.

This investment adds to VRU funding that has already supported almost 270 youth workers in nearly every London borough. More than 90 per cent who completed the programme reported being well equipped to manage conflict, with almost similar numbers reporting increased confidence in their professional ability. Four fifths of those on the programme described themselves as leaders by the end of it, while others reported improved listening and questioning skills, and having greater empathy with young people. 

Today’s new funding announcement comes as London’s Violence Reduction Unit brings together local authorities, MPs, funders, youth workers, young people and charities for a ‘Youth Work Matters’ event at Black Prince Trust in Lambeth.

The event, which includes a panel chaired by former Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, seeks to demonstrate the vital work being done by youth workers in supporting young people and driving down violence in the capital. The VRU is asking attendees to pledge their commitment to support and protect youth work at a time when many public services are facing financial challenges.

The impact of Government cuts to the youth work sector between 2011 and 2019 saw 730 youth workers lose their jobs and 130 youth centres close across the city. This coincided with an increase in violence.

The Mayor set up the VRU to lead an approach to tackling violence that is rooted in prevention and early intervention. A key part of this approach is to champion the role of youth workers and alongside the Rise Up programme, the VRU invests in embedding youth workers in police custody suites and hospital sites across London. They aim to help young people at ‘reachable, teachable moments’ in their lives to divert them away from violence.

The new investment sits alongside the Mayor’s commitment to provide a mentor for 100,000 young Londoners most in need of support. His £34m investment in mentoring means City Hall is on track to deliver this pledge by the end of 2024.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Tackling violence and building a safer London for everyone is my top priority as Mayor. This has been made harder by Government austerity, which has resulted in 730 fewer youth workers and more than 130 youth centres close over the last decade.

“I’m determined to continue being tough on violence and tough on its complex causes. With this approach, violent crime in London has been falling since 2016, but there is still a long way to go. 

“We know the importance of youth work in supporting young Londoners and driving down violent crime, which is why my Violence Reduction Unit is investing even more to support and develop youth workers to help divert young people away from violence and towards opportunity and employment.”   

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Youth work plays such a central role in the community fabric that supports young people.

“It’s why the VRU continues to champion, support and invest in the life-changing impact that youth work has in our communities. We’re committed to investing in youth work in all places and spaces, but it’s vital we also fund the development of leaders through our Rise Up programme who can better support young people to tackle the many challenges facing them today.

“Our ‘Youth Work Matters’ event shines a light on the breadth of youth work impacting right across our city and is an opportunity for us to pledge to work together to do everything we can to promote and support it.”   

Anne Longfield, Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, said: “Youth work has a crucial part to play in protecting young people from harm and supporting them to succeed. Youth Practitioners can understand and engage with young people in and around schools like no other to develop positive activities and support long-term, intensive relationships that divert them away from those who wish to exploit them.

“The national cuts to youth services budgets over the last decade were counterproductive and short-sighted. Expanding youth work, particularly in areas of the country where young people are most at risk of involvement in serious violence, must be part of the drive to keep vulnerable children safe, and I welcome this addition investment.”

Sally Bartolo, Rise Up graduate and member of the VRU’s Youth Practitioner’s Advisory Board said: “Rise Up was a great opportunity for me - it helped develop my leadership skills, confidence and youth work practice. I joined the VRU's Youth Practitioners' Advisory Board to help push forward the agenda for youth workers in London and the incredibly important work we do.

“We're talented, highly skilled specialist professionals and I am delighted the Youth Work Matters event is showcasing the impact we have all over the capital, supporting our young people to achieve brighter futures.” Photo by Chabad Lubavitch, Wikimedia commons.