Public sector bodies asked to do more on knife and other serious crime

15 Jul 19

Local authorities and NHS trusts have been handed responsibilities to tackle serious violence under new legislation announced by the home secretary.

Sajid Javid said the ‘public health duty’ would help end “senseless bloodshed” by holding organisations to account rather than individual teachers, nurses and other front line professionals.

Under the government move, councils and NHS bodies will share data, intelligence and knowledge to help tackle serious crime including knife violence.

Announcing the new duties on Sunday, Javid said: “Violent crime is a disease that is plaguing our communities and taking too many young lives.

“I’m confident that a public health approach and a new legal requirement that makes public agencies work together will create real, lasting long-term change.”

The announcement was well received on the whole but several groups warned that the changes must be adequately resource.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The elephant in the room is that austerity has taken money out of the public sector that equates to more than £3bn in policing alone, which has contributed to us getting into this situation.

“You can’t legislate yourself out of this, but we do welcome the new legal duty for public bodies to share intelligence to tackle serious crime.”

Javid stressed that the new duties would not burden those involved, but would build on existing responsibilities and local arrangements.

He also said the government will amend the Crime and Disorder Act to ensure serious violence is an “explicit priority” for Community Safety Partnerships, which are made up of representatives from local police, councils and fire and probation services.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said the group is concerned that amendments “will not create the required step-change to tackle serious violent crime, particularly if this is not supported with extra funding”.

Blackburn called on the government to reverse cuts to local youth services, youth offending teams and councils’ public health budgets. 

Separately, London mayor Sadiq Khan today said that serious youth violence in the capital is linked to deprivation, poor mental health and poverty.

Analysis by City Hall shows that three-quarters of boroughs in London with the highest levels of violent offending are also in the top 10 most deprived, while the same boroughs also have higher proportions of children under 20 living in poverty than the London average.

Khan said: “The sad reality is that the violence we’re seeing on our streets today is an appalling side-effect of increasing inequality and alienation caused by years of government austerity and neglect.

“The lesson we must all learn is that you can’t cut police officers, public services, preventative measures and ignore the most vulnerable people in our country at the same time as keeping crime low.”

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