The Sussex Violence Reduction Partnership has been successful in their bids for more than £500,000 of additional funding to help support the county’s most vulnerable young people and combat the root causes of violent crime. This takes the total amount of additional funding for tackling serious violence in Sussex to just under £2million.

The Violence Reduction Partnership – a multi-agency group which identifies and tackles the root causes of violent crime involving young people – has been awarded £518,862 of additional Government funding for two programmes aimed at reducing young people’s risk and vulnerability to serious violence.

An investment of £228,084 will fund the continuation of the SWITCH programme, a youth mentoring service delivered by Albion in the Community (AITC), the official charity of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club.

SWITCH provides independent mentoring for young care leavers who are victims of exploitation, at risk of falling into criminality or already perpetrators of violent crime.

Young adults aged between 17 and 25 are offered immediate support if they are taken into custody, preparing to leave care or are brought to the attention of local authorities due to a violent incident.

This extra funding will also support the project to work with A&E departments and GPs to increase the number of referrals from these settings.

The point at which a vulnerable young person comes into contact with the authorities is viewed as a teachable moment and an opportunity to address safeguarding risks such as self-harm, child sexual exploitation, episodes of going missing and drug and alcohol misuse.

The young person is given a confidential consultation and a personal support plan is created, tailored to the individual’s specific needs. The bespoke intervention plan takes into account the unique circumstances, such as personal trauma, that could be the root causes of violent behaviour.

The young adult can then voluntarily consent to join the SWITCH programme, after which they benefit from 25-30 hours of individual mentoring and support.

SWITCH has already proven to have a lasting positive impact by drastically reducing reoffending rates among young adults. Just 12% of 17 to 24-year-olds on the programme fell back into criminality, compared to 38% of young people Sussex-wide.

The first two months of the SWITCH programme saw dozens of children and young people referred and enrolled – around half of whom have not come to police attention since engaging.

This latest round of funding will support the programme until March 31 next year, during which time there are expected to be around 450 referrals, with 150 young people actively engaged.

A further £290,778 will also fund Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) training for frontline staff in Sussex until the end of March, 2022.

In collaboration with charities Safe in Sussex and Brighton Oasis, 5,500 frontline staff across a range of Sussex services will receive training on the early impact of childhood trauma and how it affects young people and their families.

Safe in Sussex provides a range of services to support those experiencing domestic abuse, working in a trauma-informed manner. The charity has been delivering adverse childhood experiences recovery programmes since 2019 alongside its range of community programmes which educate and empower adults, children and young people. The Brighton Oasis Project has over 23 years’ experience delivering services for women, children and families affected by substance misuse and domestic abuse across Sussex.

Training will be prioritised for the police, youth offending teams, education – primarily pastoral teams and those in pupil referral units, housing services, primary care health teams, local authority frontline staff in early help, youth services and probation services.

The sessions will teach techniques that can be used with young people and their families to improve interactions with those that may have experienced trauma or ACEs, while also looking at the impact of race, class, gender and social stigma.

In turn, this will allow professionals dealing with vulnerable young people to ask more appropriate questions, identify risks and ultimately safeguard the children in their care more effectively.

This latest round of Government funding follows awards this year of £880,000 to the Violence Reduction Partnership and £514,500 to go towards tackling knife crime and serious violence through intense patrolling of high harm spots throughout Sussex, as well as partnership problem-solving and targeting of Habitual Knife Carriers.

The investment built on positive results seen last year through targeted activities such as our knife crime awareness campaign, hotspot patrols and weapon sweeps, as well as educational outreach in schools and local communities.

Detective Superintendent Stu Hale said: “Tackling the root causes of violent crime in our county is a key priority for Sussex Police, and central to this is working with our partner agencies on early intervention with young people.

“This additional funding will allow us to continue to provide targeted support to those who need it most and help change the course of hundreds of young people’s lives before vulnerability turns into criminality.

“Through the SWITCH programme and trauma-focused training for our frontline staff, young people who come into contact with the police or local services have genuine opportunities to receive safeguarding and support from people who understand their unique, complex circumstances.

“Our existing intervention programmes have already had a positive, long-lasting impact and this additional commitment will allow us to build on that hard work.”

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I’m delighted that our Violence Reduction Unit has been awarded additional funding as this will expand upon the real difference it is already making for vulnerable young people in Sussex.

“The programmes offered are helping tackle the issues at the heart of much of the violent crime within our county, making it a safer place for us all. They are also making a meaningful improvement to the lives of those involved, giving them the chance of a brighter, crime-free future.”