In recent weeks, the country has been shocked by a series of stabbings that have, tragically, taken young lives.
In Birmingham, over the space of just 12 days, three teenage boys have lost their lives: Sidali Mohamed and Abdullah Mohammad, both 16 years old; and student Hazrat Umar, 18 years old. Jodie Chesney was killed in a knife attack in an east London park as she played music with her friends. She was 17. Yousef Makki was stabbed to death in a village near Altrincham. He was 17.
These attacks add to a 93% rise in the number of young people being stabbed since 2012. We cannot pretend that cuts to policing have not made our country less safe. After nine years of government cuts to frontline policing, some 21,000 officers, 6,800 PCSOs and 18,000 police staff have left the police. As a result, neighbourhood policing, which helps to prevent crime, has been undermined.
Sadly, the Prime Minister and other members of her Cabinet continue to deny the link between police cuts and violent crime.
Policing matters – of course it does – but serious youth violence does not happen in a vacuum; it reflects the environment and the society in which individuals live. Nine years of Tory cuts to public services have undermined or removed the structures that used to provide a safety net for young people.
Our overstretched services are unable to provide the specialist support that children in particular desperately need. When young people aren’t given this support, we see the consequences in the prison population. Just 2% of the general population have been excluded from school, compared with 50% of the prison population.
Some 2 million children live in families with complex needs, and 1.6 million have no recognised form of additional support. That is the scandal at the heart of this violence, and it is the real price of austerity.
To tackle the root causes of violence, we need to take a public health approach that encompasses youth services, school exclusions, housing, social services, mental health and health as a whole.
We know all this and yet the Government continues to underfund our police and our public services.
This country is facing a crisis. It is time for leadership from our Prime Minister and our Home Secretary, for clear action and a united vision from all arms of Government, and for emergency funding for the police and prevention programmes to keep our children safe.
An open letter to the Prime Minister signed by myself and Police and Crime Commissioners demands the urgent recruitment of 10,000 new police officers and a cash boost for youth services. The Government’s warm words are no longer enough.