Local partners have launched a new joint community mentoring project to provide young people with increased support and opportunities to turn away from street-based violence.
Leicester City Council, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Commissioner Rupert Matthews and the Charnwood Community Safety Partnership have teamed up with Leicester's Violence Reduction Network (VRN) to fund the £160,000 initiative. The VRN is made up of local authorities, community safety partnerships, health, education, criminal justice, voluntary and community organisations that are committed to working together to prevent and reduce violence.
Local charity The Y, which has extensive experience of reaching and working with vulnerable young people, has been selected as the provider after a competitive process and will partner with community-based organisations to deliver this new service.
The project has been co-designed by community partners and will run predominately across Leicester and Charnwood.
The scheme's launch represents part of the city's knife crime and serious violence strategy, which was launched in July. It will see young people and young adults aged between 15 and 25 offered emotional support from ‘credible mentors' within the community to improve their social skills, build positive relationships with others, access services and provide opportunities to achieve their goals and avoid future involvement in violence.
Street-based mentors will work with individuals at risk of involvement in violence including knife crime, meeting them in a place where they feel safe and working with them regularly to offer support tailored to their individual needs.
Cllr Kirk Master, Leicester's assistant city mayor for neighbourhoods, said: "Ensuring young people have trusted sources of support to turn to when they need help is one of the key recommendations of our knife crime and serious violence strategy. Offering a ‘front door' to access support and additional services is much needed.
"I'm really pleased that we are funding this new service, which is unique - as was our approach to the strategy, by engaging and using co-designing models with communities. By working together in this way, we can support young people at risk of knife crime to turn their lives around."
Grace Strong, VRN Director, said: "We are investing in this project because we believe communities are in an ideal position to reach young people most affected by violence. A core aim of the VRN is to better understand what is effective in preventing and reducing violence affecting young people and we look forward to fully supporting the development of this project and in time, evaluating its impact."
The Community Mentoring Project is one of a number of existing interventions and services being delivered to tackle the causes and consequences of violence. Mentors will work to encourage positive social norms and dispel myths and stereotypes around issues such as masculinity, gangs, and weapon carrying. They will also offer emotional support and aim to improve young people's social skills, supporting them to navigate and access support across the system in order to achieve their goals.
Rupert Matthews, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and Chair of the Violence Reduction Board, said: "No organisation can solve violence on its own. This project is partnership working at its best and utilises the expertise and experience of a collection of agencies to secure the best outcomes for young people. I am proud to be jointly funding a project which will add value to our collective efforts to reduce and prevent violence."
Paul Brown, Chief Executive of The Y, added: "At The Y we are clear about the role we can play in supporting our partners to address serious violent crime in Leicester & Leicestershire. Our extensive experience of designing and delivering projects that engage young people will be used as a foundation to ensure that this initiative makes a real difference in our community.
"We understand the challenges that young people face and how negative influences impact on their choices, this project will to address these and offer young people positive alternatives for change."
Cllr Leigh Harper-Davies, lead member for community support at Charnwood Borough Council, said: "We are delighted to support the Y and its new mentoring project.
"This offers new opportunities to intervene early with young people who are at risk of experiencing violence and alter the path they are on for the better.
"By increasing resilience through mentoring and developing relationships with young people, we can help them to resist negative influences and make more informed choices."
Recruitment for the community mentors will begin shortly and the project aims to be up and running early next year.
Young people can self-refer to the scheme or be referred by a partner organisation or community intelligence. More details on the project will be on the VRN's website shortly: https://www.violencereductionnetwork.co.uk/
You can read Leicester's strategy on knife crime and serious violence at: www.leicester.gov.uk/keystrategies
Picture shows Cllr Kirk Master, community members and local partners at the launch of the knife crime strategy in July this year.