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‘We must do more to end violence’

TRAGIC: English rapper Joshua Ribera, left, was fatally stabbed in 2013. His mother, Alison Cope, right, is not convinced that money to prevent youth crime is being spent wisely

A BEREAVED Birmingham mother-turned campaigner who lost her son to knife crime has questioned whether the sizeable increase awarded by central government will make much of an impact on the fight against youth crime in the second city.

Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Children’s Trust were awarded nearly £486,000 from the government’s supporting families against youth crime fund.

INTERVENTIONS

This new funding – part of £9.5m awarded to projects in 21 areas of the country announced by communities secretary James Brokenshire MP – is tasked with supporting earlier interventions to turn young people away from gangs and crime in Birmingham.

Birmingham Children’s Trust staff will receive specialised training and deliver family interventions for children who are most vulnerable to becoming involved in youth crime. The programme will also educate more than 1,000 young people in targeted schools on how to stay safe.

Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for social inclusion, community safety and equalities at Birmingham City Council, said: “This has been a truly tragic week for our city, with two young people losing their lives as a result of knife crime. Whilst I know that agencies across Birmingham are working hard to challenge and prevent violence, we can and must do more to keep our youngsters and communities safe.

“(The money) will be used to fund specialised training for frontline staff within Birmingham Children’s Trust, help educate more than 1,000 pupils in primary schools across the city on how to stay safe, and support earlier interventions to turn young people away from gangs and crime. This is vital to our ongoing efforts to get knives and violence off our streets.”

Andy Couldrick, Chief Executive of Birmingham Children’s Trust, added: “I am pleased that we have been successful with the city council in securing this funding, as it is much needed to support our work to prevent youth crime and to provide support to children, families and schools so that fewer children are excluded and more are enabled to reach their potential.

SERIOUS

“Knife crime is a serious issue for the city and we need to do more, collectively, to support and protect our children and young people.”

“I am not convinced that the money that has been spent on the ground has been spent wisely,” said Alison Cope, whose son Joshua was fatally stabbed in September 2013. While I live in hope, I am not seeing evidence of the work on the ground. There is no coordinated response to the issues at hand.

“If there is, why is there no guidance on who’s doing what in the city and who families in need can be referred to?”

Joshua lost his life at an event that was held to commemorate the death of a knife crime victim.

Alison has rebounded from her loss to become an independent campaigner, visiting schools, colleges, prisons and other community settings to help steer young people and their families away from crime.

“The money being spent is failing to enable families to be aware of the dangers in society for our young people. Those affected are getting younger and younger, and the longer the situation waits to be addressed properly, the worse it gets.

“There is no longer a co-ordinated police response to incidents of crime and so much rubbish is being spoken,” add- ed Alison, whom on June 8, will present the second annual Joshua Ribera Awards, which recognises the achievements of young people that have been excluded from school. The event will take place at the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre.

“There was no repeat riot after 2011 because the police were everywhere. If someone just ticked ‘like’ on Facebook, they got arrested. We do not get that anymore.

We have to live in hope that the money goes to individuals the young people know and respect, and that it makes a difference. This will only happen if there is a coordinated response in which every group stays in their lane.

“We can’t all profess to be gun experts, then knife experts and then gang specialists. As I said, I hope the money makes a difference, but right now I’m not sure it will.”

For more on the awards, visit alisoncope.com

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