What works to keep children and young people safe from violence?
It’s a question that is central to councils’ strategies for child safeguarding, delivering on their Serious Violence Duty commitments and commissioning children’s services. Yet it’s a question that’s seldom straightforward to answer.
Councils face the difficult task of having to assess the most effective means to support and serve children and families, while all the time having to strike a delicate balance between meeting the diverse needs of their communities, financial constraints, and the practicalities of implementing services in the complex lives of individuals and families.
At the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), we are committed to working with councils to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence.
We do this by funding promising projects and using the most robust evaluation methods to build a better understanding of what works to prevent violence.
Just as we benefit from robust trials in medicine, we believe children and young people deserve support grounded in evidence. Our trials span a wide range of themes and issues, from family support programmes and trauma-informed training to testing multi-agency partnerships to prevent extra-familial harm.
But we know that none of this research will make a difference if it just stays on the metaphorical shelf. We need to help those who are responsible for implementing practices, commissioning services and setting policies to put this knowledge to good use.
Academic research reports aren’t always the easiest to find, access and understand.
To overcome this, we run regular virtual and face-to-face workshops, where councils can learn about the latest evidence and – most importantly – discuss how it can be applied in practice.
We’ve also developed an online toolkit so that this information is easily accessible.
The YEF Toolkit summarises evidence from around the world about the effectiveness of different approaches to preventing serious youth violence.
It provides you with the ‘best bets’ – the approaches most likely to keep children safe and away from the criminal justice system.
For each approach, we rate its impact and the quality of the available research, and provide indicative costings.
When used alongside other evidence resources – from What Works Centres, such as Foundations and the Education Endowment Foundation – and combined with your local knowledge, we hope it can help you find the right solutions to keep children in your community safe.
So, what works to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in violence?
Our research shows that therapies, social skills training and sports programmes are all highly effective, reducing violence by up to 30 per cent in some cases.
Restorative justice, mentoring and pre-court diversion show real promise too.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, can be used with children demonstrating challenging behaviour and with those who are already in custody. Around the world, it has reduced levels of violent crime.
Social skills training helps children to consider consequences before actions, understand others’ perspectives and use strategies for managing impulsiveness or aggression.
Similarly, sports programmes have been found to have desirable impacts on reducing aggression, promoting mental health, and responding to other behavioural difficulties.
There is still much to learn about what does and doesn’t work, but what we do know is that violence isn’t inevitable. When we focus on reducing it, we can reduce it.
Working together and putting the evidence into practice, we can help every child live a life free from violence.
The YEF Toolkit is a free-to-access resource and is available at www.youthendowmentfund.org.uk/toolkit