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MPs call for dedicated police officers for schools in violent areas

Dedicated police officers should be appointed to schools in areas with high levels of violence, a report by MPs has said. Credit: PA

Schools in areas with a higher risk of youth violence should have dedicated police officers, MPs have said.

The Government needs to "get a grip" on rising serious youth violence and make it a priority, as the current response "is completely inadequate", a report by the Home Affairs Committee says.

It also calls on new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take personal responsibility to tackle the rising levels of knife and gun crime amongst young people.

In response to the calls, the Home Office said MPs on the committee had failed "to recognise the full range of urgent action the Government is taking".

More needs to be done to stop children being excluded from school, the report says. Credit: PA

The report also calls on Mr Johnson to tackle rising violence by appointing an “accountable leader” in every local area reporting directly to him.

As part of its inquiry looking at serious violence, the MPs heard evidence which showed that the number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries rose by a third between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

The chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, said the Government’s current approach has not “risen to the scale of the problem”.

She said: “Teenagers are dying on our streets, and yet our inquiry has found that the Government’s response to the rise in serious youth violence is completely inadequate.”

Yvette Cooper has said the Government must urgently deal with the ‘crisis’ in youth violence. Credit: PA

The senior Labour MP added: “There are no clear targets or milestones, and no mechanisms to drive progress.

"To publish a weak strategy and convene a few roundtable discussions just isn’t enough when faced with youth violence on this scale.

“The Home Office has shamefully taken a hands-off approach to this crisis, but it is a national emergency and must be treated like one.

“They need to get a grip.

“Serious violence has got worse after a perfect storm of youth service cuts, police cuts, more children being excluded from school and a failure of statutory agencies to keep them safe.

“The Government has a responsibility to deal with this crisis urgently.”

The report criticises the Government's current approach to youth violence as 'completely inadequate'. Credit: PA

The committee’s report calls the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy a “completely inadequate response” to increasing levels of violence and stressed that urgent action is needed to tackle county lines gangs – including stronger local safeguarding plans.

As well as dedicated police officers for schools in areas with high levels of violence and "accountable leaders" in all local areas, the report also calls for a major investment in local youth services and prevention work – including a new “Youth Service Guarantee” and “substantial” additional resources for policing.

It also states that schools should work to reduce the growing number of exclusions.

The Home Office said the recruitment of an extra 20,000 more police officers has already been announced. Credit: PA

In response to the calls, a spokesperson for the Home Office defended the Government and said a "full range of urgent action" is already taking place "to keep our communities safe".

“The committee’s assessment fails to recognise the full range of urgent action the Government is taking to keep our communities safe – including extra police powers and resources," the spokesperson said.

“The Prime Minister and Home Secretary last week announced the recruitment of 20,000 more officers and a new national policing board, which will meet for the first time today, to drive the response to critical issues including serious violence.

“Police funding is increasing by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and £100 million for forces worst affected by violent crime.

“We have made it simpler for officers to use stop and search, and our Offensive Weapons Act will stop knives making their way onto our streets in the first place.”

Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield has called on the new PM and Home Secretary to 'show their commitment to tackling youth violence'. Credit: PA

The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, echoed the committee's report in her call for "more investment" to tackle rising levels of violence.

“The new Prime Minister and Home Secretary must show their commitment to tackling youth violence," Ms Longfield said.

“That will require more than summits and meetings.

"We need a large-scale and long-term plan that includes a new generation of youth workers, more investment in early years and troubled families programmes, better children’s mental health services, a strategy to tackle school exclusions and keeping schools open for longer to help protect some of the most vulnerable children.

“Too many families and communities are being wrecked and too many childhoods broken by the scourge of gangs and criminal exploitation.

“Until the Government treats this as a top priority, young people will continue to be caught up in gangs and serious violence, and children will continue to die on our streets.”