News release
Press Release

VRU to invest over £1m in youth worker leaders and coaches in custody

05 June 2020

VRU invests more than £1m in youth workers and coaches in custody

London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has today announced a new £1 million investment in a leadership programme for the capital’s frontline youth workers and the expansion of a scheme for coaches working with young people in custody.

The new funding is part of the VRU’s approach to supporting vital services and key frontline workers tackling violence in the city as lockdown measures continue to ease.

London’s VRU – set up by the Mayor in 2018 and the first of its kind in England – is investing £550,000 to fund the intensive leadership programme for 100 youth workers who are actively supporting young people directly affected by violence.

The leadership programme, starting in September and led by London Youth in partnership with Leap Confronting Conflict and Clore Social Leadership, will provide youth workers with the enhanced leadership skills they need to do an even better job under challenging circumstances.

Participants will be recruited from across the London Youth network, with the programme delivering 26 days of training across the year, timetabled to work around youth workers’ commitments. Training will include safeguarding, mental health modules and business planning.  Throughout the course there will be mentoring and coaching from established voluntary youth sector leaders from London Youth.

The VRU is also investing an additional £457,000 in the police custody diversion scheme ‘Divert’ which builds on the success of trained Custody Intervention Coaches and provides greater capacity for them to work with young people in custody and help reduce violence. 

Custody Intervention Coaches are uniquely placed to meet individuals during the period immediately following their arrest whilst they are held in the custody suite at the police station, which is an ideal opportunity to identify and address vulnerabilities. They work to provide support and guidance which includes developing a plan that offers opportunities to move young people away from crime.

Since 2018, Divert has helped more than 1,000 young adults aged between 18-25 turn away from crime and employment, training and education.* The programme is led by the Met police, Bounce Back and the New Era Foundation. Divert sits outside the criminal justice process, conversations are confidential and their coaches are independent of the police investigation.

It is a positive example of the VRU in action working in partnership with key community organisations and the police to divert people away from violence, making an intervention at an early stage and working to address the root causes of violence by providing some of the most disadvantaged young Londoners who have been exposed to violence with positive life opportunities.

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit said: “It is now more vital than ever that we invest further in preventing crime, counter the root causes of violence and deliver early intervention that we know helps prevent tragedies.

“Youth workers on the frontline have the lived experience and relationships to deliver those early interventions that can make all the difference, but they need better professional training to unlock their potential and make the most of their role which will benefit young people.

“Our investment in the youth worker leadership programme will empower those at the heart of tackling the underlying issues behind violence in our city, particularly in the most affected areas, helping us to deliver long term solutions for young people and reduce violence across London.

“I’m pleased that we are also able to build on the success of the custody intervention scheme Divert, with coaches working with young people in custody to deliver teachable moments, turning them away from crime and into employment, training and development opportunities.”

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive of London Youth said: “Members of London Youth’s network of community youth organisations have been determined and innovative in responding on the frontline to Covid-19. These organisations are driven by youth professionals who are deeply invested in and trusted by their communities and the young people they support.  Our Leadership Programme will actively seek out and invest in 100 youth workers with the untapped potential to be voluntary sector leaders of the future. In the aftermath of Covid-19, London’s communities will need local leadership more than ever”.


Chief Inspector Jack Rowlands who is on secondment to the Violence Reduction Unit said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is delighted that the VRU are funding the DIVERT programme within our police custody suites. Working with Bounce Back and other partners we aim to help as many young adults as possible move away from crime into employment, education and training. We look forward to working more with the VRU to develop further ways of preventing violence in London. The Met is committed to tackling violence and it remains a top priority.”


Ben Kernighan, Chief Executive for Leap Confronting Conflict said: “Before Covid-19 it was a challenging time for many young people; street violence and school exclusions have been rising in recent years. The pandemic now presents new challenges to the education, freedoms and employment prospects of young people.  Supporting young people has never been more important.    We want to create a world in which young people are not only safe but are also able to thrive and fulfil their potential. We want young people to have a powerful voice in shaping this new and rapidly changing world. So I am delighted that Leap Confronting Conflict, London  Youth  and Clore Social Leadership can come together to share experience and resources that enrich and connect youth practitioners across the capital, enabling best practice in our responses to the needs of young people”.

Shaks Ghosh, Chief Executive for Clore Social Leadership said: “Now more than ever, leadership is fundamental to how we respond to challenges, whether that's in organisations, our communities or wider society. Social leadership is not a title or a status but a set of attitudes, skills and behaviours that are deployed to achieve a positive outcome. 

Our youth workers deploy their leadership with compassion and passion every day in some of the most challenging contexts, especially when working to reduce violence. Often these youth workers do not recognise what they do on a daily basis as leadership, we want to reach those youth workers. Those with untapped potential who, given the chance to further develop their skills, hone their behaviours and build a community of other dedicated youth workers, will continue to create the safe spaces that young people need to thrive.    Combining the expertise of the partners in youth work, conflict and leadership development we believe this bespoke programme will offer those who participate in the programme will receive a learning experience that has the rigour of other youth work qualifications but the added benefit of peer learning and real-world application that will continue as a legacy for the youth sector beyond on the length of the formal programme”.

Notes to editors

+ This latest investment from the Violence Reduction Unit is in addition to the Mayor’s £45m Young Londoners Fund, which will award funds to projects in schools which give young Londoners creative and constructive activities that keep them engaged with their education.


*Divert Stats October 2018 - March 2020:

During this funding period 1,001 young adults have benefitted from DIVERT engagement.

559 have been given Information, Advice and Guidance.

265 have received training and development.

96 are now employed.

81 are in HMP working with Bounce Back.

36% of this cohort have entered into Education, Training & Development  or Employment.


Bounce Back works in partnership with Divert to broaden the support package and opportunities. The latest Bounce Back Foundation Grant Agreement has a value of £457,000 and is to span the 2020/21.


+ London Youth is a charity on a mission to improve the lives of young Londoners. Through their network of 500+ community youth organisations they provide capacity building and training to youth professionals, with their Bronze Quality Mark being a condition of securing a Young Londoners Fund grant from the GLA. Last year they delivered programmes to 27,000+ young people in their network. Their Future Talent and Headstart Action employability programmes seek to inspire young people about future career options, recognising that a lack of positive employment pathways is intrinsically linked with rising violence involving young people.


• In April 2020, London Youth facilitated a focus group with the VRU and nine members (including Leap Confronting Conflict) to 'feed-up' the experiences of youth workers who've been providing support to young people under COVID19 Government guidance. The discussion spanned the digital divide, challenges of remote youth work provision particularly for those unsafe at home, county lines and the mental health impact of lockdown on young Londoners living in poverty.


+ Clore Social Leadership develops leaders with a social purpose so that they can transform their communities, organisations and the world around them. Established as a charity in 2010 and a community of over 1,000 social leaders who have engaged and continue to engage in leadership development as catalysts for social change.  

+ Leap Confronting Conflict (Leap) has, for over 30 years designed programmes to transform the way conflict is managed by young people and the adults who support them. By developing creative and adaptable approaches, Leap supports young people to deal with immediate issues, whilst also addressing some of the longer term, systematic patterns of behaviour that lead to violent and destructive expressions of conflict. Leap’s programmes are designed to support young people growing up in care, in education and/or at risk of exclusion, in inner-city communities and within the secure estate or prisons.


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