Good morning everyone and thank you for taking the time to read the latest update from the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU). We are now going full steam ahead on a number of exciting deliveries and projects across the county and really starting to make a positive and tangible difference to partner professionals as well as our communities.
What we have achieved over the past year is extraordinary. The progress we have made with our partners and communities has been amazing and I look back over the past 12 months with a great sense of pride, especially considering the impact Covid-19 has had on our delivery and vision for the VERU.
It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and determination to get here, and while I cannot thank everyone who has helped us individually, I would like to give special thanks to Lisa, Tasha, Ade, Roseann, Sheldon, Draz, Demi, Dee, Benita, Megan and Jon for their contributions. All our VERU staff have worked tirelessly to get the unit to where it is today and they all deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the role they have played.
It always heartens me when the VERU gets positive feedback and the respect we have at a national level is remarkable. We have been selected as national lead for community and youth involvement alongside Greater Manchester’s VRU, where we will work to establish best practice nationally in terms of engaging with our communities and young people.
This is a really important piece of work and reflects the progress we have made in this area here in Bedfordshire. I have always stressed the enormous value we have in reaching out to communities who may not traditionally engage with statutory services, and we can thrive in that role as the bridge to those groups. I look forward to seeing if we can help replicate that success at a national level.
Locally the VERU is also making a massive impact in terms of education and awareness. I am working with Dr David Kirby, a consultant at Luton and Dunstable Hospital, on a bespoke delivery for medical staff on gangs and violence. Medical practitioners all too often see the shocking aftermath of violence and exploitation, and it is important they have the tools and support they need to cope with this, as well as playing a role in helping us prevent these issues from ever happening in the first place.
Lisa Robinson, the VERU Exploitation lead, and Tasha Case, our Youth Intervention Specialist (YIS) team coordinator, have also been delivering enormously valuable training and awareness inputs to hundreds of professionals over the past month, with more details outlined below. People from all over Bedfordshire are buying into the mission of the VERU, and I look forward to expanding our message even further over the next few months.
In the spotlight
One of our youth intervention specialists, Roseann Taylor, spoke about the work of the VERU as part of an ITV Anglia special this week. The broadcast was a perfect reflection of the partnership work that has gone into helping bring serious youth violence down by nine per cent in Bedfordshire over the past year, featuring our work as well as the police.
It is only by working in partnership together and building a network of different staff and agencies that we can achieve a real and lasting difference. You can still watch the report on the ITV Anglia website.
I have been working tirelessly behind the scenes developing the YIS online service for both young people and professionals. Since October we have delivered several online sessions providing information and guidance to young people and professionals, raising awareness around serious youth violence, child criminal exploitation and the support available to them.
We are ecstatic with the response we have received from our partners in education, the three local authorities and the community alike. The support for young people and the community cannot be achieved by one single organisation. Partnership work allows us to reach a wide spread of young people across Bedfordshire – like the old African proverb states, it takes a village to raise a child!
These training inputs can be summarised below:
A Luton housing association (staff and service users).
A Central Bedfordshire College (25+ students) with an additional 16 subject group tutors requesting the same and some targeted work in the coming weeks/months.
Residential placement professionals’ forum for 91 professionals from across Bedfordshire.
Before the first lockdown the YIS team delivered six sessions to more than 100 students at a Luton based college, which has also booked seven further sessions with the YIS team for January 2021.
Thank you to Mary Seacole for our joint delivery to the pan-Bedfordshire placement professionals, with a special thank you in particular to Lindsey Barron and Reena Carter at Luton Council, Sharon Deacon at Central Bedfordshire Council and Toni Badnall from Bedford Borough Council for welcoming us into their forum.
The YIS Team has also been working in partnership with the Evolve alternative education provision. We are currently delivering a targeted mentoring programme with young people around gang prevention and youth crime, with a focus on career aspirations and goal setting. This is being led by Sheldon Thomas, one of our youth intervention specialists.
One of the staff at Evolve said: “Sheldon has come in and captured the learners’ attention with his delivery methods. This has enabled him to build a rapport with the group and learners have had the opportunity to reflect on their choices. Sheldon allows for the group to have their say and challenge views in which encourages the learner to build confidence and feel safe to speak their minds and express the tests of society. It has been a privilege to work with Sheldon and discuss and share ideas of how we can support learners reflect and achieve to their potential.”
Tasha Case – Youth Intervention Specialist Team coordinator
Embracing partnership working
We are especially lucky to have support from Embrace, the charity which provides support to child victims of crime. One of their specialist counsellors is seconded into our YIS Team and we are very grateful for the help and support they provide us.
Embrace is currently running its Christmas appeal and we would be delighted if you could give them your support. Visit the charity’s website for further information.
It takes a village
It has been mentioned already in this month’s VERU in View in our belief in the mantra that it takes a village to raise a child. You may have seen on our social media us using the hashtag #VERUVillage – part of a wider project and branding we will be rolling out in the coming weeks.
We will have more details soon, but the below logos should give you a flavour of what we are trying to achieve with this network. The VERU Village will work hand in glove with the Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation (BAVEX) project, which will provide a uniform brand for campaign and awareness raising work around all forms of exploitation linked to organised crime.
As part of this project our Exploitation lead, Lisa Robinson, has led partnership briefings to around 200 professionals on some guidance documents on both child and adult exploitation. Further sessions are available - visit the Safeguarding Bedfordshire website for more information.