The Independent View: Preventing child on child violence in our communities

Last week, the Government released guidance on tackling bullying in the community. It’s a welcome and interesting departure because it signifies an acknowledgement that bullying isn’t just an education issue.

Yes, bullying happens in schools, but these behaviours aren’t confined to classrooms and playgrounds. For years, Beatbullying has understood that bullying can happen anywhere – in youth groups, parks, on buses, etc – and bullying in the community is a significant problem. That is why we run bullying prevention and anti-violence workshops in youth clubs and community groups, as well as in schools.

Crucially, what we’re also seeing is a link between bullying behaviour and more serious, violent, anti-social behaviours and crimes being committed by young people. The problems are well documented; young people are being attacked, they are being mugged, they are threatened with weapons, they are being beaten up and in horrific cases, they are being killed. By other young people. Ask a group of young people today what concerns them and child on child violence is right at the top of their list. Children are frightened of children, and we need to do something about it.

Early intervention is essential. There is a clear continuum of violence, and what starts out as name calling, excluding people from groups, intimidation or petty theft, can, if left unchecked, escalate into more serious anti-social and violent behaviours such knife crime and gang related behaviour. Utilising early intervention processes, Beatbullying’s Gateway programmes are specifically designed and proven to divert the behaviour of young people who are displaying low levels of anti-social behaviour, before they reach the “Gateway” into serious and more problematic behaviour.

If we can reach a young person when he is at the start of this continuum, and work to change his behaviour, not only is it easier to divert behaviour here than further down the line, but we are also preventing more serious incidents from occurring in the first place. And surely it is better to intervene early to prevent bullying than to wait for incidents to occur and then respond?

I’m sure everyone agrees that every young person should feel safe, whether in youth clubs or activities, at school, or in the community. And whilst the new guidance will be useful, it cannot be a substitute for good, practical, on the ground bullying prevention work. Beatbullying’s Gateway programmes bring multiple agencies together to develop a standardised approach to tackling bullying in an area – training young people, as well as professionals, because it’s the young people who have the power to change a culture within their community.

If we are to tackle the problem of child on child violence effectively, we need to introduce these programmes into every community, creating a joined-up, strategic, whole community approach to solving the problem. With an emphasis on peer-lead practice and interventions, we can arrest a youth culture which is bound up with fear and violence, and stop this continuum of violence.

* Emma-Jane Cross is Chief Executive of Beatbullying.

Editor’s note: The Independent View is a slot for those who are not Lib Dems, or have no political party affiliation, to write articles we hope will be of interest to Lib Dem Voice’s readers. Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to submit or suggest such an article.

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