Councillor Halden introduced
the report and felt that young people needed to feel safe in
schools to be able to receive the best education. He outlined the
changes in the nature of crime over recent years, and felt that
gang violence could affect every area of society. He highlighted
that gangs tended to prey on vulnerable adults and could use their
houses as gang bases, as well as being aware of the legislation
regarding curfews and police presence to evade arrest. He described
how the Youth Offending Service had been
expanded and now included officers with expertise in gang
violence, and this had reduced youth reoffending rates to 27%,
which was 10% lower than the national average. Councillor Halden
also highlighted that young people not in education, employment or training was also only
1.5%, which was half of the national average. He added that
Thurrock had granted £1million to Essex Police to help them
tackle gangs across the borough, which had led to 24 injunctions
and 16 prosecutions of youth gang members.
Councillor Halden then outlined the proposed Protocol and stated that it gave schools the opportunity to designate specific staff members with the powers of stop and search, for both children and adults on school premises. He clarified that the proposed protocol was clear on the policy and its uses, as well as being responsible and robust. He added that the Protocol brought together the Youth Offending Service, as well as pastoral care such as mental health workers, careers advisors and the drug/alcohol teams. He stated that this would tackle the root causes of gangs in the borough. He added that the report would produce a proactive network, which would work both in and out of schools throughout the year to help vulnerable children and young adults, and would provide a wrap-around service. He stated that this report would increase the relationship with schools as it expanded the role of the mental health teams and Youth Offending Service, as well as working to avoid exclusions and expulsions.
Councillor Hebb stated that he felt this was a good initiative as it increased collaboration between teams and would support vulnerable children. He asked if there was a role for the finance team and debt management officers. Councillor Halden replied that the debt management team could be brought into the Protocol, as they could work with young adults on the Life’s Ladder initiative and teach young people how to avoid debt and enter into schemes such as the Help to Buy. He stated that this could provide young people with financial stability and mobility, which would reduce the pull of gang membership. The Leader stated that it was good to see partnerships on projects such as these, as collaboration became standard practice across the council. He stated that this report would provide the appropriate level of action when required, and would not become mass stop and search policies as was seen in some American schools.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Approved the Schools Protocol to reduce vulnerability factors and safeguard children and young people from serious youth violence.
2. Continued to invest and identify positive activity programmes to provide alternative pathways for vulnerable children and young people.
3. Continued to endorse the cross directorate working that is in place to support our wider community safety ambitions for children and young people.
Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in