It was back in 2016 when Safer London was first commissioned to deliver direct one to one interventions to young Londoners affected by violence. Back then the service was known as London Gang Exit (LGE).

Since it all started, a lot has changed. We moved away from calling our service LGE or London Gang Exit, as we know the language we use can be powerful. We have created a simplified process to access our services and have done work within communities, so the service is better understood.

As the years progressed, we made sure we have worked with more and more girls and young women, bringing in specialist workers to better support their unique needs. This has been complemented by a focus on developing specialist roles around housing, emotional wellbeing and direct work with families, recognising the complexity and varying levels of support individual’s need.

There is no limit to the number of specialists a young Londoner or their family can access, it is based on their need and us finding the best way to support them. If we can’t provide what is needed, we will work hard to find someone who can.

I met Safer London’s housing officer, he worked with me and helped me a lot. Even though I was a man I never knew everything a man should, but he helped me learn. By the time I finished working with him I knew about bills, council and housing. We went through hours of council meetings and applications. He helped me into my hostel flat and we successfully got a grant, which I doubt I would have received without his help

Young Londoner

Over the past six years we’ve done a lot of listening. Listening to what young Londoners have to say, listening to how they feel and listening to what they need to make a better future for themselves.

From our experience we have come to understand that young Londoners affected by violence often have a deep distrust of services and professionals. More times than not, they express how they feel they’ve been let down.

For us, any success is dependent on a strong relationship being built between a young Londoner and a service which is non-judgemental and relatable, whilst at the same time credible and professional.

We also know that six months support is often not long enough. There is a need for support to be over a longer period of time. So, our commitment as we move forward is to change the service to ensure that happens. We are also committed to working collaboratively with young Londoners, to ensure our support and services are shaped to their needs, are culturally competent and take into consideration intersectionality.

I was put in touch with Safer London. To be honest at the beginning before my first meeting with my Support Worker, I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But within minutes of meeting for the first time we connected instantly. He was easy to communicate and get along with. He taught me to grow, share and that I should never give up.

Young Londoner

Despite all the learning and changes we have made one thing remains – our unwavering commitment to work alongside young Londoners, so they feel safe and stay safe. All our work is underpinned by core guiding principles such as trauma responsive and non-judgemental approaches and has safeguarding firmly at its core.

Through the evaluation undertaken by the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime of our work, we’ve had the opportunity to look back on the past five to six years and reflect on what the impact has been.

Our support leads to statistically signification reduced victimisation

Through evaluating five years of our service delivery, we can see there has been a consistent and significant decrease in victimisation with those we have worked with, even when perhaps the relationship came to an end sooner than was originally planned.

Exploring victimisation for 12 months pre and post intervention start date produces similar findings to previous reports, with statistically significant decreases across all, violent and serious number of incidents of victimisation). Comparing victimisation rates by year the individual was referred also tells a similar story – all years report at least one significant decline (in either proportion or cohort average). In terms of violent and serious victimisation, reductions are again observed across all years, but in these cases, it is years 1 and 2 that see significant reductions (violent victimisation significant drop in years 1 and 2, serious victimisation significant for year 1 only).

Davies & Dawson (2022), London Gang Exit: Final Impact Evaluation Report Page 29, MOPAC Evidence and Insight

This only serves to highlight the blurred lines between victim and perpetrator – a distinction that we say is unhelpful and speaks to the need to safeguarding children and young people before criminalising them.

Our support leads to signification reduction in serious offending  

So many of the children and young people we work with haven’t received the long-term support and opportunities they’ve needed. The impact of which is our need to work alongside them for a longer period, to effectively roll back some of the harm that has happened to and around them. The evaluation demonstrates that there is a long-term impact of our work with reoffending decreasing significantly between 18 to 24 months.

As we saw the LGE group were young, presented both an offending background and multiple needs, and wider research has documented the link between age and offending and the wider maturation factors that can influence offending (Farrington 1992; Farrington et al 2014;). However, it is within this cohort that LGE reported a significant reduction in the proportion of violent offenders as well as a reduction in the proportion and rate of victimisation. This is a clear positive and should set a foundation for future work.

Davies & Dawson (2022), London Gang Exit: Final Impact Evaluation Report Page 35,  MOPAC Evidence and Insight

Reflecting on the past five to six years, we have seen a lot of positive outcomes of our work, but we can’t rest. We know we can do better and sadly the service is needed now more than ever.

In an ideal world we would have a city where all children and young people lived lives free from violence and exploitation and we will continue until that happens.

The space in which young Londoners live in, is complex and can be brutal – and almost impossible to thrive in.

Sherry Peck, Safer London CEO

We are often asked what we think is driving the issue – and we are clear that it is about wider inequalities and social injustice, communities and families under pressure and children and young people living within a brutal context which is difficult to thrive within.

The fact that 89% of those referred into our service for support around violence are young Black men may be interpreted in several ways. For us, it simply highlights the impact of social injustice and inequality, all of which is compounded by referral bias. It’s a bold statement, but we speak from our knowledge of working with young Londoners and their experiences of these issues.

The issues are complex, deep rooted and will take time to resolve. Until that time, we’ll continue working with young Londoners affected by violence and exploitation for as long as we’re needed.