A public health approach is needed to reduce crime, but what is a ‘public health approach’ and why does it matter? The Home Secretary announced that the Government would be taking a ‘public health’ approach to tackle youth violence; likewise, the Mayor of London announced a Violence Reduction Unit which would have a ‘public health approach’. It is a term that has been used frequently among government officials in recent news – here is our say on the approach.
But what does a public health approach actually mean? The approach is one which recognises that the underlying causes of youth violence are complex and varied. It relies on collaborative, multi-agency initiatives as a community response to demonstrate best practice and address the needs of young people. The approach importantly focuses on upstream and preventative interventions.
What is the significance of the approach? The Violence Reduction Unit proposed by the Mayor of London is based on the successful Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) established in Glasgow. The VRU approach has played a significant role in reducing crime and violence in Glasgow, including a “38% fall in total incidents of violent crime and a 43% reduction in the number of serious assaults” (cited in Skae 2018). There are lessons that can be learned from an approach that considers the wider social framework to understand the causes of violence and to develop solutions for long-term change.
3 Pillars’ approach towards a public health model Our experience of delivering within the prison estate has highlighted the need to engage and support young people through the gate to reduce the risk of their engagement with violence and gang activity. 3 Pillars Project now deliver in the community, working with Pupil Referral Units and Youth Offending Teams. We believe that this approach will reflect the complexities that many of our participants face.
Our work focuses on risk factors such as gang memberships, school exclusions and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which are significant predictors of at least one form of serious violence, and has started to include opportunities for prevention in the community, engaging young people through meaningful activities to stop them from entering the ‘cycle of violence’ entirely.
3 Pillars Project has also made a concerted effort to build a diverse operational team so that everyone offers something unique to the delivery of courses, as well as providing strong and positive roles models to the young people on the courses. We use a collaborative approach and draw upon best practice from education, psychology and criminal justice to address the needs of young people, with an emphasis on trauma and development.
Watch this space. Want 3 Pillars to deliver a community project near you? Get in touch!