A new unit set up to tackle the root causes of knife crime and other serious youth violence in Bedfordshire has been funded by the Home Office for 12 more months.
The additional £880,000 will fund the work of the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) until April 2021.
The VERU brings together different organisations including police, local government, health, community leaders and other key partners to prevent serious violence by understanding its root causes.
Luton Council portfolio holder for community safety, cllr Aslam Khan, said: “Gang-related violence, and particularly knife crime, is one of the most serious issues facing young people in Luton today.
“This council is committed to doing everything in its power to address the problem, and will continue to work with our partners in VERU to minimise the dreadful impact of serious violence on our community.
“The Home Office decision to extend VERU’s funding is extremely welcome, allowing us to continue with this vital endeavour.”
The Bedfordshire VERU is one of 18 similar units being funded by the Home Office across the country, it had already received £880,000 for its activities until April 2020.
Bedfordshire’s is the only unit to have the word ‘exploitation’ in its title and to make this a feature of its approach, since victims and offenders are a constantly inter-changeable group among young people involved in serious violence.
Kimberley Lamb, head of the VERU, said: “The support for the VERU’s work from across different partners and our communities has been remarkable.
“Everyone is pulling in the same direction to make this new unit a success and unleash the transformative work we are planning to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable young people in Bedfordshire.”
The VERU is awarding £400,000 to around 35 different projects across the county which can divert young people away from criminality. These projects will be delivered by both statutory agencies as well as community groups.
Full details of these projects will be announced in the coming weeks, once the grants have been finalised.
The VERU will also be delivering its own work, creating a long term and sustainable system to address and respond to these issues.