Good morning and thank you for taking the time to read this summer update from our Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit. Our team is continuing to work incredibly hard with young people, their families and other professionals to combat the criminal exploitation of young people in Bedfordshire.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us and I would reiterate that our door is always open to help, advise and collaborate with others in this sector.
This includes working with the criminal justice system, where we are making great progress in highlighting the exploitation that can often drive young people’s offending. I gave a presentation to Bedfordshire Lord Lieutenant Hellen Nellis and around 80 judges and magistrates explaining our work, and we are now co-designing a VERU programme delivery with Magistrates to be rolled out to communities and young people. We are also developing an exciting programme of VERU work to take into HMP Bedford alongside the Young Enterprise charity, more details of which we will announce over the next few weeks.
We are also continuing to shape the discussion around violence reduction units nationally. I was one of six VRU heads to hold a round table recently with Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, and he hopes to visit the VERU soon to hear even more about our work. I am also chairing a sub group for VRUs nationally around community engagement, with our work for the VERU in this area having been recognised nationally as an example of best practice.
Engaging with our communities directly is so important and I am proud of how much progress my team has made in this area. This engagement is particularly important in the midst of Black Lives Matter, which has undoubtedly led to challenges between our communities and agencies such as the police and other public bodies.
At the VERU we are enormously proud to work alongside the police and our partners and are committed to harnessing all our collective resources and willpower to protect our communities and young people in particular. But this also means carving out our own distinctive voice and brand in order to reach out to all our communities and engage effectively where other agencies may not be able to do so. It is a fine balance that must be struck, but it is imperative that we perform both these roles in order to fulfil the objectives that all of us are trying so hard to accomplish.
We are delighted to be funding a diverse range of community projects over the coming year, continuing our focus on community-based interventions. Last year our community projects reached more than 12,000 people and we have countless stories of the positive impact these programmes have had on young people at risk of exploitation.
This year’s community interventions focus on outreach and diversion projects for parents and young people, as well as community spaces which can provide safe spaces and activities for those at risk of exploitation. A full list is included below and anyone who wants more information or contact details for these projects can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
As well as these interventions and those mentioned above, VERU funding has also been allocated to our community safety partnerships and youth offending services for ongoing activities.
Pathways to Success – Diverse FM - £10,000
Run by Diverse FM’s community team, this Luton-based outreach project will involve a weekly drop in session offering young people access to information, support and peer mentoring. As part of the development of this service, Diverse FM will offer employability skills, media skills development and recreational activities, with a view to building skills and encouraging positive life choices by the young people that take part. A radio advert for the programme is attached to this email, with this and a video about the project due to be circulated on our social media channels over the next few weeks.
Uprising – One Stop Advice - £10,000
This project will offer parental classes which build skills and resilience. Its focus will be to provide a service whereby parents, guardians and carers are mentored to increase their ability to put measures in place to manage boundaries and protect their children from exploitation. This project will particularly focus on building resilience within parents who, due to a lack of confidence and knowledge, would benefit from support.
Challenging behaviour parenting workshops - Counselling Wellbeing Foundation - £10,000
The foundation will work with parents whose own lives have been impacted by social environmental factors, leading to issues such as substance abuse or criminal offending. This project will work to improve family relationships and long-term outcomes for the children.
Baby Faces - FACES - £10,000
The project will support people in the transitional stages of becoming parents and offer them tools and coping strategies to prevent and heal adverse childhood experiences (ACES).
Prison Me No Way - Oakbank School - £1,500
This coeducational special school in Leighton Buzzard will run presentations to more than 100 students by Prison Me No Way, an agency which helps students via presentations from ex-prisoners who have turned their lives around. Workshops will be specifically tailored to cover county lines, gangs, drugs and violence. This programme will reach those students who are already involved in gang related behaviour and act as an early intervention for those who are vulnerable to being groomed to become involved in this type of lifestyle.
Community spaces projects
Ampthill Town Council
An outreach programme which will engage with young people in the town, replicating a scheme which has run successfully in Flitwick.
Will support the purchase of floodlights for the multi-use games area at the Hart Hill Community Centre.
Active sports equipment purchased for People’s Park in High Town.
Potton Town Council
VERU will help fund a youth club run by Groundworks in the town for one night a week.
Sandy Town Council
The funding will contribute towards the construction of a gym trail across the town, starting in Sunderland Road.
Shefford Town Council
Will improve the security of the council’s youth hub, which was established last year with the help of previous VERU funding.
Staploe Parish Council
Money will pay for utilities connections to two converted shipping containers, allowing them to be brought back into use by local groups.
Toddington Parish Council
Improved security around the cemetery and allotment, as well as sports equipment and a permanent fixed base for a table tennis table.
Massive progress is being made by the VERU across our different departments.
The Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit Rapid Strategic Needs Assessment and the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Strategic Response have been led by the VERU in collaboration with our partners. These documents will shape our work moving forwards and we are delighted to be sharing these documents with our wider network. You can access these documents through the What We Do section of our website.
Our Youth Intervention Specialist (YIS) team continues to work with young people and their families. If you would like to speak to the YIS team about their work or potentially refer a young person for support, please email email@example.com or visit our website to find out more about their services.
Our YIS team is coming up with some new videos which speak directly to parents, young people and professionals about the work they do. These videos will be available on YouTube and other platforms in the next few weeks and we would encourage you to share them alongside the VERU’s website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Speaking of comms, our communications team is also in the final stages of planning the flagship Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation project, which the VERU is delighted to be supporting alongside our partners. This project will give a clear and comprehensive brand under which to badge all activity in the county combatting violence and exploitation, with more details set to be announced over the coming weeks.
Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit
Email – VERU @bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk