Major expansion of services for victims of gang-related violence

17 February 2015

Specialist youth workers, dealing directly with young victims of gang crime, will be placed in every hospital major trauma centre (MTCs) to support victims and reduce youth violence in London under the major expansion of a ground-breaking project announced today.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has made increasing victim services for young people a priority and working through the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), the £600,000 initiative announced today will enable Redthread, a youth charity, to put specialist youth workers into all four MTCs in London – King’s College, St Mary’s, St George’s and Barts Health's The Royal London.

The scheme was first developed at King’s but the additional MOPAC funding means that for the first time, all London’s MTC’s will have specialists working directly with victims of gang violence being treated at the hospital. The initiative was announced today by the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, on a visit to King’s College Hospital’s major trauma centre.

New figures out today show that last year the number of gang offences in London fell by almost 20 per cent. MOPAC’s ‘Gangs Dashboard’, an online database of statistics, shows that there were a total of 5,977 serious youth violence offences in 2014, down 13 per cent compared to the baseline of March 2012. Many services exist for young people convicted of a gang related crime but few offer support to young gang members who are also victims of violence, many of whom suffer long-term mental health trauma as a result of their experiences.

Engaging with young victims of gang crime at the critical moment of hospital admittance is proven to increase the chances of those involved in gangs leaving their violent lifestyle behind and help break the cycle of reoffending. Young girls and women who have been sexually exploited and abused by gangs, or coerced into participating in criminal activity, will also be provided with specialist support.

Two of the four MTCs (The Royal London and St George’s) will use the funding to create a new specialist youth service while St Mary’s and King’s will expand their existing services. At King's, where 500 young people came through its emergency department doors with serious injuries including gunshot wounds and stabbings last year alone, they will use the additional funding to expand their service to include victims aged 20-25. This will help them to reach over 600 more victims each year and bring the total offered the service at King’s alone to over 1,100.

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh said: “Gang crime is falling and the police will continue to crack-down hard on gangs to keep London safe. But we know that stopping gang violence is about more than just policing – we also have to help those who want to exit gangs and leave violence behind. Working in collaboration with the NHS and the criminal justice system, this vital service will offer young victims of violent crime close personal support in their hour of need. Supporting these young people who are stabbed or shot from the moment they arrive in hospital is part of our comprehensive plan to combat gang crime in our capital city."

Dr Emer Sutherland, consultant clinical lead for the Emergency Department at King's College Hospital, said: "We set up the scheme at King's because we wanted to do more than just patch young people up and send them on their way. Hospitals have a unique opportunity to help try and stop the victim-perpetrator cycle. This is why talking to young people, at this key moment in their lives, can help steer them away from the world of gang violence many find themselves in." Dr Asif Rahman, consultant in adult and paediatric emergency medicine at the Imperial College Trust, said: "In 2013 we were seeing about 11 serious stabbings and one gunshot wound each month and it really made us realise we needed to do something about it. Hospitals are a very good place for that 'teachable moment' and we're lucky there are so many people who want to help. It's about forming that bridge from the hospital into the community, so that when these young people leave the hospital, they stick with these programmes and hopefully don't come back." Redthread, a charity that provides support and holistic care for young people who are the victims of violence and trauma, will be running the project. John Poyton, Chief Executive at Redthread said: "We’re very excited to receive funding from the Mayor’s office to expand Redthread's service, which we developed in partnership with King’s College Hospital over the last nine years, to young people across all four Major Trauma Centres in London. The additional funding will enable our specialist youth workers to provide vital support to more young people in the 'teachable moment’ when the crisis of injury creates a window of opportunity to re-evaluate their future. Redthread works to help young people break their devastating cycle of violence which is so detrimental to countless vulnerable individuals, heartbroken families and concerned communities.”

Alice Kershberg, Emergency Department Sister and Violence Reduction Nurse at The Royal London Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust, said: "This funding will enable us to expand our work with specialised caseworkers to ensure we meet the full range of physical and mental health needs of people who suffer penetrating assaults, such as stabbings. In the first nine months of 2014 we cared for 430 people with penetrating injuries at The Royal London Hospital. The injuries often have a massive and long-lasting physical and psychological impact, and for many it will be devastating.”

Rhys Beynon, St George's Emergency Department consultant, said: "We are delighted to be involved the intervention project. Sadly we do see a number of patients coming to our Emergency Department with gang-related trauma, anything we can do to reduce this number and strengthen our relationship with the community would be a great thing."

The announcement comes on the same day as the release of MOPAC’s latest online dashboard on gang crime. Part of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to make police data more accessible this series of dashboards takes raw data already available on other sites and transforms it into an easy to understand format for the public and media to access in one place.

To view the gang’s dashboard visit https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-crime/data-information/gangs-dashboard

Case Study

F, 24, arrived at St Mary’s hospital in January 2015 after sustaining multiple stab wounds to his chest, neck, thigh and buttock. The attack took place in F’s flat, which was splashed across London news, and became a crime scene. He found himself not only facing a long road to medical recovery, but homeless too. Outside of the hospital F was disengaged with his probation officer, and this lack of cooperation meant he was likely to face prison after an upcoming court date – a date he was now medically unable to attend. It was at this point, with F alone on the ward, that Redthread’s Youth Violence Prevention Project first made contact.

The team offered F support, advice and a chance to openly discuss what behaviours, decisions and events had led to his hospitalisation. With F vulnerable, Redthread were able to help him fulfil a number of tasks and responsibilities he was simply unable to do by himself. Redthread arranged for F’s probation worker to visit the ward to rekindle their relationship. Re-engagement with this key support worker meant F could discuss, for the first time, the steps he needed to take to move on from his criminal past. Redthread were also able to adjourn F’s court date until he was medically fit, by providing key medical documents as evidence. On behalf of F, who was unaware of the name of his social housing worker and was in rent arrears, Redthread spoke to the housing group, explaining to them the details of F’s attack and his need to be rehoused in a safer location. This process is now underway, with temporary housing offered in the interim. F was also suffering from flashbacks after his traumatising attack. Although initially hesitant, Redthread encouraged him to seek medical support from his GP and made a referral to West London Mental Health.

F’s life has been dramatically changed by his attack, but more so by the help offered to him afterwards. At a time when he was vulnerable and alone, Redthread offered him support when others were unable to do so."