A clinical criminologist has warned that politicians are too focused on winning elections to properly address the issue of serious violence among young people.
George Hosking OBE, founder of the WAVE Trust charity, told a City Hall meeting on Wednesday that Governments are reluctant to devote long-term resources to solving the problem.
He told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee: “I have no confidence that we’re going to put in place the measures that I know, and we know, will work.
“Why? Because they require long-term thinking and long-term funding.”
The committee was discussing the impact of serious violence among young Londoners and what steps are being taken to combat it by mayor Sadiq Khan’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
Mr Hosking was one among several expert panellists who called for an increased focus on the kind of early intervention and preventative strategies carried out by the VRU.
But he claimed that politicians in local and national government are too often distracted by the demands of election cycles, and the need to demonstrate short-term improvements to voters.
He told the committee that an MP advisor to Theresa May, when she was prime minister, had candidly admitted to him that his goal of eradicating serious violence is “never going to succeed”.
He said that the unnamed Conservative MP told him: “It’s simple. We’re elected for five years. We’ve got to do things that produce results within four, so that we can talk about them in the fifth year, before we stand for re-election.”
Mr Hosking, who spent nine years as an advisor to the Metropolitan Police – and also advised several Government departments – said this limitation “runs through local and national politics in this country”.
Earlier in the meeting, VRU director Lib Peck warned that there is a “crisis” in providing mental health support to young people in need.
She said: “After 10 or 15 years of austerity, we see that played out in terms of mental health waiting lists and the support that we know young people need, which has also increased – probably because of things like increased poverty, but also quite clearly, because of the impact of Covid.
“There is also a big issue I think, and a big call for investment in, youth work – which has been completely de-professionalised, and yet actually, is very often the kind of relationship that most supports a young person.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are committed to tackling youth violence which is why we are providing police forces with additional resources to tackle crime and, since 2019, have invested over £170 million into the development of Violence Reduction Units in the 20 areas worst affected by serious violence.
“We are also investing £200m over ten years in the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) to understand how to better prevent youth violence – this provides funding for over 230 organisations, which have reached over 117,000 young people since YEF was set up in 2019.”