Houghton Regis to Benefit from £400k Pot to Curb YP Crime

Bedfordshire’s PCC, Kathryn Holloway, and the specialist new Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) that the Home Office has funded her to create, are distributing £400,000 to local projects to tackle the problem of young people’s involvement in gang, gun and knife crime.

The funding marks a flagship intervention by the VERU, an initiative drawing together the police, health, local authorities, youth offending services and grassroots groups from across the county.

The funded projects include those which will work with schools and alternative education to deliver anti-knife crime messages including projects focussing on parents, girls at risk of being drawn into gang activity and young people with learning disabilities, who may be more easily exploited, as well as schemes offering diversionary activities such as music, sport and media production.

“I’m delighted that these first grants from the VERU genuinely represent the voices of our communities and what they themselves feel will be most effective to divert their own young people away from involvement in gangs, guns, drug dealing and knife carrying,” said the Commissioner.

“It’s no good sitting in ivory towers and dictating what will work. Only those living in hotspots for serious youth violence understand, from close up, what is most likely to reach these young people and at what stage."

The VERU also has its own team working directly with young people at risk of serious violence, as well as with their families.

This team includes Roseann Taylor, whose son Azaan Kaleem was murdered in Luton in March 2018 and Sheldon Thomas, the director of charity Gangsline.

Dr David Kirby, Operational Medical Director at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, will also be working closely with the VERU and delivering specialist presentations to groups of young people across the county.

“I met Dr Kirby and Roseann long before winning funding for the VERU and it was absolutely obvious to me that two individuals with such powerful personal stories to tell in relation to knife crime and violence would be best placed to help deliver that message with real impact for young people. The VERU is making sure that can happen,” said Commissioner Holloway.

The funded projects include the first to be financed under the PCC’s new Early Pathways initiative, aiming to deliver early intervention to children aged 10-13.

“There isn’t a police force, PCC or council in the country who cannot be aware of the persuasive evidence around the impact of so-called Adverse Childhood Experiences on children, including the impact of drug and alcohol addiction and Domestic Abuse in their homes and the dwindling life chances they create, including vulnerability to involvement in crime and gangs.

"I’ve been determined to intervene earlier than has usually been the case in the past, with our partners, to get this message across to 10 to 13-year-olds and these are the first commissions under the Early Pathways banner for this age group.”

Bedfordshire is one of 18 police force areas given a grant by the Home Office for a violence reduction unit.

This mirrors the successful public health approach that has been taken to tackling violent crime in Scotland.

Bedfordshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Jackie Sebire, the national lead for serious youth violence, said: “I am so impressed by the list of projects and partners who are supporting the VERU’s work.

“The only way we are going to achieve a sustained reduction in serious youth violence is by working together to provide opportunities for our young people and offer them a different path.

“I hope that this is just the start of a journey which can transform the lives of young people living in communities across Bedfordshire.”

Around half of the projects are being delivered by charities, social enterprises or grassroots groups. The VERU is also funding projects run by statutory services such as the county’s youth offending teams and community safety partnerships.

Alternative education provisions in the county are being awarded funding to come up with creative projects with an anti-knife crime message.

The VERU will also take over the management of some projects which were awarded money from a separate Government grant last year.

Kimberley Lamb, the project manager who oversees the VERU’s day to day operations, said: “Me and my team are determined to make a big difference and improve the prospects of young people in the county.

“All of these projects have been through a thorough assessment process and we believe represent fantastic opportunities to reach out to communities who would not typically engage with services such as the police.

“Many of these projects are already delivering some fantastic work and support to children at risk of being criminally exploited. We want to ensure this work not only carries on but improves, leaving a lasting legacy and preventing young people from becoming victims.”

The Home Office has already set aside another £880,000 for the VERU to continue until April 2021, subject to ministerial approval of the PCC's spending plans.

Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety at Bedford Borough Council, said “This funding will help local groups, charities and grassroots organisations working alongside the youth offending services and community safety partnerships to reduce serious youth violence in our county.

"The VERU brings together the police, local councils, community leaders and other key partners so we can work as effectively as possible to understand the root cause of violence, and tackle it together.”

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, Cllr Sue Clark, said: “We welcome this investment in targeted local projects to support our communities most affected by violence and exploitation.

“As young people are the most likely to be involved in knife crime and criminal exploitation, we recognise that these issues are best tackled by through better understanding and education that speaks directly to those most at risk.

“We believe that this approach, focused on early intervention, coupled with the delivery of popular  activities, such as music and sport, will help the Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) to succeed in its aim.”

Full list of projects

Active Luton

Targeting eight to 16 year olds in the Hart Hill area of Luton through sports programmes including boxing, football and cricket

Bedford Borough Community Safety Partnership

Funding will help create a shared community hub which will benefit other agencies and the wider public in the Midland Road area of Bedford

Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Local Safeguarding Children Board

Funding for Alter Ego to perform theatre productions across schools in both areas raising awareness of serious violence and criminal exploitation

Bedfordshire Opportunities for Learning Disabilities

A youth programme where participants will be encouraged to explore their thoughts around violence and anti-social behaviour involving vulnerable young people, as well as improving participants’ communication skills

Bedfordshire Youth Offending Service

Deliver a ‘Skills Mill’ programme to give young people employment skills and help them find work

Bruno’s Brazilian Soccer School   

The Unite to Learn and Play project combines classroom based lessons on English and Maths, employment skills as well as football training and games. Also working with local businesses to offer work experience and potential job opportunities to those enrolled on the programme. Funded through a separate grant.

Freedom from Abuse

Education programme about the criminal justice system and especially joint enterprise rules for children and young people aged from year five and above

Grand Union Housing Group   

Outreach work by youth workers at the housing association to engage with young people and give out kit bags containing card games and information around things like knife crime, drugs and exploitation. Funded by a separate grant.

Halleema Ali   

The 22 Seconds To Murder programme was launched in memory of Azaan Kaleem, who was the victim of a 22 second attack which resulted in his death. This creative project combining lots of different elements will aim to raise awareness of knife crime. Funded from a separate grant.

Houghton Regis Town Council 

The programme will use peer education to deliver anti-knife messages around actions, outcomes and consequences. The Youth Council will promote the opportunity for young people to sign up to form a group to undertake a programme of education and awareness including a visit to the Ben Kinsella Exhibition. Funded through a separate grant.

Inspiring People

Working with young people in Bedford to teach them about things like employment skills and running a business, as well as creative skills such as music, TV and radio production

Lord’s Taverners

Continue to deliver the charity’s Luton Wicketz programme offering cricket coaching and mentoring for young people aged eight to 19

Luton Community Safety Partnership

Deliver anti-knife crime messages to all key stage three education settings in Luton as well as working with young people to create podcasts about the challenges they face and what might them lead into a life of violence

Luton Irish Forum

Intensive programme with students in alternative education provisions to prevent them getting involved in violence and exploitation. This will include discussions, debates and group tasks about relevant topics to do with serious youth violence

Luton Town FC Community Trust

Work to support high schools in Luton and Bedford and reduce exclusions with a targeted programme using sports competitions and workshops

Luton Urban Radio

Work with young people through workshops, school assemblies and a youth conference event to create a radio show that explores the gap in experiences between young and older people in society today

Luton Youth Offending Service

Working alongside social enterprises Att10tive and Directional to deliver training and development programmes for children potentially involved in serious violence and criminal exploitation

Mary Seacole Housing Association

Young people will learn to create radio shows, podcasts and other digital media products as well as carry out broadcast interviews with senior figures in Bedfordshire. Delivered in partnership with Jamrock Media


Its Change the Narrative project will be used to provide media training, mentoring and development to young people in Bedford. The training will incorporate key aspects of media including photography, videography and video editing. The trainees will work together in teams to create video content geared towards changing mindsets and informing young people of the dangers of a life of violence and other opportunities for success outside of crime and violence. Funded through a separate grant

One Stop Advice & Training Centre       

Parenting programme to help mentor parents and carers to put measures in place to manage boundaries, increase confidence and encourage improvement in behaviour, in order to protect their children from serious youth violence and exploitation

One Stop Advice & Training Centre       

Workshop delivered across primary schools to talk about knife crime. Will be using victims of knife crime to speak with the children on the impact to their lives. Funding awarded through a separate grant


This project is working with ethnic minority families, especially from the Somali community, and particularly young people by diverting them away from serious violence, offending and re-offending through sports activities, leisure activities and group workshops. Funding awarded through a separate grant

Reactiv8 The Nation

Will work with excluded children across Bedfordshire to provide mentoring and discipline through programmes such as boxing

Realfit Centre Riseley         

Weekly fitness programme for children aged 13 to 16 to build confidence and relationships

Samsons Academy Charity Bedford

Offering gym-based work experience to young people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training

Shefford Town Council

The project will bring back into use a building that was built and used previously as a changing room for a junior football club. They will use the building for a dedicated Youth Hub. The location lends itself to many creative activities, including sports. However, this space will also be used to facilitate a bike repair project, mentoring young people, employment support and drop in sessions. Funded through a separate grant.

St Giles Trust

St Giles’ SOS+ Project delivers early intervention work in educational and community settings, through preventative sessions on violence, vulnerability and exploitation. They will deliver sessions in schools across Bedfordshire to demystify gang culture, county lines drug running, and educating children and young people about the harsh realities of knife crime, gang violence and child criminal exploitation.

St Hugh’s Church

Grassroots community group originating from St. Hugh's Church in Leagrave, though the programme is open to all faiths and backgrounds. The project will aim to support parents and concerned members of the community by working with schools, youth charities and other agencies to give local parents a voice

Stepping Stones

Working with young women and girls in Luton affected by gangs and county lines. They will also provide training and support to practitioners on how best to respond to girls affected by these issues

The Flavasum Trust     

‘Boy X' interactive anti-knife crime theatre production in schools for years eight and nine. The audiences can interact with the play and change the outcome depending on their discussions and decisions

The Safer Luton Partnership

Individual mentoring programme that will work with young people on a one-to-one basis at least once a week

Youth Voices

Weekly informal drop-in sessions for young people in Bedford to discuss issues that matter to them, as well as developing media products such as podcasts

Ten alternative education provisions will produce a creative project with their students with an anti-knife crime theme

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