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The West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit is set to continue to support communities across the region, with a Home Office announcement today that £14.5 million has been allocated to the unit, spread over the next three years. £5.8 million has been allocated this year, with £4.3 million allocated in the following two years.

Some of this funding is ringfenced to help different services like local authorities, health agencies, and police to work more effectively together and to address the risk factors for violence, including poverty, deprivation, and trauma.   The VRU also provides services that directly support children.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, said:

“I’m pleased with the progress that our partnership has made this year. I welcome this indication of investment in the violence reduction unit but activity this important should not be subject to stop-start funding, changing requirements and last-minute government announcements.”

Robert James, Director of City Operations for Birmingham City Council, said:

“Everyone should feel safe wherever they live and work. This funding will provide the necessary resource for the partnership between the City Council, West Midlands Police, the Violence Reduction Unit and the community, to make this a reality for young people across the city.”

The VRU have supported schools to help children who are at risk of becoming involved in violence, with noted improvements in attendance and reduced behaviour issues already.  Prevention activity is taking place in maternity and early years settings and also with every age group right up to those who have left education.

VRU partners are acutely aware that more options are needed for those who are already caught up in violence or exploitation.  This year, the partnership has placed youth workers who have direct experience of adversity themselves into new locations such as emergency departments, sexual health clinics, exploitation hubs, and out and about in communities.

Dr Katie Wright, Emergency Medicine consultant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and the VRU’s clinical lead, said:

 “Youth workers in hospitals can often connect with young people in crisis in a way that other services can’t. They have time to help support young people, listen, advocate and guide them to better life choices while building trust in other professionals. They also support our health care teams, improving our safeguarding skills and share local knowledge so we can all improve our work with young people”.

Over 200 children have been able to quickly access mental health support on their own terms through Heal Hub, which provides choices about when, where and from whom they get help. More than 18,000 students now encounter local youth workers on their way to and from schools across the region.

Crucial to the partnerships are networks of local people who help to identify what is needed, and commit to working together to bring about change for their local community. 

Dr Helen Paterson, Chief Executive of Walsall MBC, said:

“Over 600 people are already actively involved with the VRU in community networks across the region, and we’d like to see that grow, including branching out into other places where levels of need are high”.

More than 140 faith leaders from across the region have joined the VRU partnership.

Kamran Hussain from Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre, said:

“The VRU Faith Alliance provides an opportunity for faith leaders – so often at the forefront of supporting communities through tragedy – to take practical action together to prevent harm.  There are a number of projects underway and we welcome others to join us.”

Despite today’s announcement the funds are not secured. A further application process is now underway. The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, has stepped in with a £600,000 loan to ensure that services can keep functioning amid government delays.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster added:

“Overall, this level of funding is not in line with either the rising costs of delivering services or the steep increases in poverty and deprivation our communities are experiencing.  The VRU supported more than 10,500 young people between April and December last year. Each of those young people are entitled to that support to be consistent, which is why I have underwritten the VRU services to keep them open until the government grant comes through.”

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