The report was presented by Ian Wake which can be found on pages 51 – 170 of the Agenda. A presentation was presented to the Committee which outlined the issue of violence and vulnerability in young people.
Councillor Anderson noted that urban areas were usually built up with gang members particularly with Thurrock being so close to London and questioned if Thurrock was working closely with London Local Authorities to tackle gang issues. He also noted that analysis on the variation of youth violence was by ward and questioned if this was an entire ward as there were some areas within a ward where there was a lot of anti-social behaviour compared to the rest of the ward. Ian Wake explained that young people moved around in different Boroughs which Boroughs were aware of. Thurrock’s Youth Offending Team had links with Essex Police and other Boroughs and the challenge was that London Boroughs could not identify all young people that were already involved in gang related activities in Thurrock. Thurrock continued to work with London Boroughs this issue. Regarding Councillor Anderson’s second question on data, Ian Wake explained that data did not give a full picture and that a range of agencies needed to be brought together to discuss ‘at risk young people’ and the steps to take to alleviate concerns that would give a more detailed picture of the situation. For young people at high risk, the service would ensure a statutory response to be given and for those at a lower risk, it would be a more strength based response such as providing a package of support to help young people achieve their goals.
The Committee questioned what measures were in place to lower the risk of young people joining gangs or to eliminate the risks where young were not in education which increased the likelihood of gang membership. The Committee also noted that crime rate had fallen during lockdown and asked if the impact of COVID-19 on gang membership would present any other challenges. Ian Wake answered that the Youth Offending Service provided a range of programmes to help prevent young people from joining gangs as once a young person became gang involved, it would be hard to get them to exit. He went on to that a young person that was not in education did not necessarily increase the likelihood of gang membership. But the service was working to get schools reopened to provide young people with the education structure needed. Regarding crime rate, Ian Wake said that national data showed that crime rates had fallen due to lockdown restrictions and that a number of services had been scaled back or delivered in a different way.
(At 9.16pm, the Committee agreed to suspend standing orders until the end of the Agenda.)
The Chair felt the report was detailed and helped to provide an understanding into an insight into the issue of gang violence. She requested that a report be brought back to the Committee to highlight the actions taken on the recommendations within the Annual Report in Appendix 1. Officers agreed to this.
1.1 That Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted and commented on the content and recommendations contained within the report.
1.2 The Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered how the findings and recommendations contained within the report can best be implemented and used to influence broader council strategy in this area.