CC Live: Practitioners ‘must take lead from young people on gangs’

Senior practitioners working in gang-affected neighbourhoods must be willing to give up power and let young people take the lead in service provision, Community Care Live heard today.

John Pitts, director of Bedfordshire University’s Vauxhall Centre for the Study of Crime, told a session on gangs that there needed to be shared ownership and leadership between young people and professionals of any intervention strategy. He added: “Service leaders are going to have to relinquish some of their power; police are going to have to listen to things and hear things that they wouldn’t usually.”

Pitts added that involving young people’s families was also key to effective intervention and that they needed to know they would be protected if they spoke out. He said: “It is very difficult for families in gang-affected areas to advise their children and we need to understand that.”

Julia Wolton, co-ordinator of Lambeth Council’s X-it Programme, which works with young people at risk of gang membership, said its approach had been successful because it was youth work-based and led by young people.

She said: “We have high aspirations of our young people and we expect a lot of them, and because of that they respond to it.”

Bianca Waite, an X-it Programme peer worker, said that because she has been through the initiative herself other young people felt they could approach her and tell her and her colleagues about their lives. She added: “They look at us and think ‘you’re ruinning this programme and we want to be part of it’.”

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