A new £6 million project will aim to keep Birmingham children in school and stop them getting involved in gang violence.
Birmingham has been chosen as one of 10 areas included in the Department for Education’s new scheme, called ‘SAFE’ (Support, Attend, Fulfil, Exceed). It was picked because it is an area with a high level of youth violence. A total of £30 million is being spent nationwide.
The aim is to reduce violence on the streets by targeting the young people in danger of being excluded from school, and those who could be recruited by criminal gangs.
Clare Gallop, of West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Educators play an incredibly important role in identifying risk, providing support, and preventing complex and often dangerous situations faced by young people from escalating. Schools within the city have been partnering with the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit for the past 2 years. We can see the difference that access to mentoring, family support, mental health support and other interventions make at a critical point in a young person’s life.”
In Birmingham, a £6,154,750 investment will help focus on improving pupils’ attendance, reducing the likelihood of young people being permanently excluded from school, keeping young people focused on their education.
Children and Families Minister Will Quince said: “Keeping young people engaged with their education has never been more important. These taskforces are helping school leaders and vital support services work together to support some of the most vulnerable young people across the country, including in Birmingham, helping to keep them on the right track and stop them missing lessons.
“Through the work of these taskforces, combined with our ongoing SEND (special educational needs) Review, the independent review of children’s social care, and our investment in Alternative Provision and other specialist support, this government is levelling up opportunities for all young people to help fulfil their potential and achieve better outcomes.”
Birmingham is known to be one of the national centres of the drugs trade, which fuels much of the gang violence seen in the city.
County line gangs based in big cities send members, often children, to sell drugs in other cities, towns and even rural villages nationwide. A Government report published in July warned: “The cities of London, Liverpool and Birmingham account for approximately 80% of all county lines when the origin of the line is known.”
The plan warned that the drugs trade is responsible for much of the serious violent crime on our streets, including knife crime. It said “County lines drug-dealing gangs export the problems they cause to other parts of the country, using our roads and railways to send drugs and weapons from our cities to our villages and towns. Inevitably, these criminals export their own brand of violence.”
The murder rate has risen as gangs “fight for control of territory and settle scores”, the crime plan said. It warned: “These crimes also hit the poorest hardest, with the poorest fifth of people having hospital admission rates for injuries caused by violence five times higher than those of the most affluent fifth. We also know that they disproportionately affect black people.”
A report last year by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said gangs were sending young people from Birmingham New Street station to sell drugs in rural areas. Trains are used because the dealers, who are often intimidated or bullied into working for the gangs, are too young to drive.
A Government study published last year found there are an estimated 35,381 opiate and/or crack cocaine users in the West Midlands. That includes 10,525 in Birmingham.
Get Midlands politics news and analysis direct to your inbox with the Midlands Message newsletter.