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Junior Smart, Founder of the SOS Project at St Giles Trust which works with young people involved in and at risk of gang crime and serious youth violence, reflects on the recent wave of gun and knife-related incidents that have spread across the capital.
“The past few weeks have been very sad times for all of us on the SOS Team. Some of the victims of the recent wave of stabbings and shootings have been known to us. Our thoughts are with their families and friends and the unimaginable heartache they must be going through. The victims were mostly innocent children with much to give to society. We must never forget this fact. It’s one that spurs the SOS Team on to continue its lifesaving work.
The Home Office’s Tackling Serious Violence strategy – launched earlier this month – gives us a glimmer of hope. However, this problem requires a joined up and committed response to address the underlying issues which drive serious youth violence. They cut across education, housing, poverty and social mobility.
This is why SOS is now needed more desperately than ever. Our approach is holistic, tailored and we will work with the issues at source. If poverty at home is driving a young person into a county line we will work with the whole family to help lift them out of the poverty trap. If school exclusion is nudging a young person
towards a gang we will work with the young person, their parent and the school to help them re-engage with education and achieve positive alternatives.
Despite the tireless and dedicated work of our team, we will always have one hand behind our back until the bigger picture is looked at. Social media and some aspects of the music industry have rightly come under scrutiny but they are simply reflecting back at young people a negative culture which is already festering. We need to stand up to the fact that there are a generation of heavily disadvantaged young people who feel forgotten, angry, frightened and lost.
There are no easy answers but we need to continue the debate we are having and not brush the issue under the Brexit carpet when this spiral of senseless violence hopefully calms down. Otherwise events will repeat themselves and we will all be left asking ourselves: “How many more young people have to die?” We all have a part to play in stopping this and if we stay talking about it we will help prevent more needless deaths of those who had so much to give."