Will this be a watershed moment for change?

3 October 2023

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The urgent need to address serious violence together

A routine Wednesday morning last week turned into an unimaginable tragedy after a 15-year-old girl was murdered on her way to school. It is heartbreaking, and my prayers are with her family during this unimaginable ordeal. I am also remembering the family of the young boy responsible for this terrible act and the bus driver and passer-by who tried so hard to save her life. So many lives have been irreversibly changed by this.

In a world where children hurting children is becoming distressingly “normalised”, will we make the utter senselessness of this tragedy a watershed moment for change?

What will it take for us to say “enough!” and really channel resources and efforts into breaking this cycle of failure and death?

This year alone, we’ve mourned the loss of at least 15 young lives in London alone due to violent crime. But let’s be clear, the children wielding these weapons have also been failed by the adult-led systems that surround them. There’s no point dismissing them as monsters without acknowledging that it is our society that has shaped them. They are also our children and we cannot turn our faces away from them.

Research clearly shows the transformational, life-saving! impact of services like youth work, mentoring mental health support etc. Unfortunately, access to quality services like these is still lacking in far too many areas. Studies like this highlight the economic value of youth work, showing its influence on areas from criminal justice to mental health and education. Despite this evidence, we find ourselves still having to repeatedly make the case for sustainable investment into comprehensive youth support for all.

The lack of effective cross-sector, multi-agency working is a major contributing factor and a problem that we can no longer afford to continue to debate. 

Who exactly is the strategic lead in charge of convening the right people and solving this problem?

Whether at the national or local level, across governments and various agencies, there’s a pressing need for leadership. We need a coordinated, sustained and collective response to what has become an epidemic of young death.

 I saw a comment online calling for a “community meeting” and it really struck a chord with me. Perhaps, alongside all the multi-agency responses, we need to also come together as a village to “take back our youth.” Too many families are struggling, isolated and alone, leaving young people vulnerable to paths that promise their destruction.

The stark truth is that this issue is not going away because we are all once again heartbroken from a distance. The loss of these young lives to this senseless violence demands our collective resolve. We need to feel this as if it were our own flesh and blood and refuse to look away.

The time for passive, fleeting observation has long passed. We have to come together, act with purpose, and take a systemic approach to protecting our young people. I join my voice with so many others and say “Enough!”

Ndidi Okezie
Chief Executive Officer

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