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Preventing gang and youth violence: Spotting signals of risk and supporting children and young people

An overview

Since it began in 2011, the Government’s Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme has emphasised the need to intervene early to identify children and young people who may be vulnerable to gang involvement or to exploitation by gangs, and to give them the right support in order to prevent this happening.

Some of the signs that children and young people may be at greater risk of involvement in gangs or violence are present from birth. Strong predictors such as substance use can be seen in children as young as seven. It is vital that local early help and safeguarding systems spot and respond appropriately to these signals of risk and when required provide additional support at the earliest opportunity.

It is also vital that this support stands the best possible chance of being effective. These children and young people may be some of the most vulnerable in our society. They need high-quality, evidence-based support, delivered in the right way by the right people to help them build critical social and emotional skills, develop resilience and lead safe, healthy and law-abiding lives.

Two reports draw on the international evidence base to begin to answer key questions about how and when we can identify the signs that children and young people may be at risk, and which types of programme interventions appear to work (or indeed appear not to work) to prevent young people becoming or staying involved in gangs or violent youth culture. We also provide an initial guide to what is learnt about signals of risk and interpret findings for a practitioner audience.

These reports do not provide all of the answers, nor do they provide everything that practitioners might want to know. They do provide rich source material for those seeking to provide early intervention that responds to signals of risk, improves outcomes and delivers savings.