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Violence Reduction Units to receive over £5million to continue to tackle serious violence

The Home Office has announced further funding of £5.08million will be allocated to the Avon and Somerset Violence Reduction team to continue their ground-breaking work.

The funding, which will be distributed over the next three years, is subject to an application from the central Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) team within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and local authority partners who deliver this important approach.

Launched in autumn 2019, the purpose of the VRU initiative is to drive a multi-agency, whole-system approach to tackling the root causes of serious violence. This includes working with key partners, police, the community and voluntary sector organisations to understand what the local problems and risks are around serious violence and work collaboratively to overcome these.

Across Avon and Somerset, a locally-driven model has been implemented, whereby the PCC has devolved funding across the five local authorities within the force area. Local problem profiles have been developed to shape both delivery and how the funding is used and, as a result, each local authority has its own VRU.

In supporting individuals, the work of the VRUs covers a broad spectrum from early prevention, to working with and diverting individuals who present as high risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of serious violence. Various interventions, awareness raising and specialist professionals are made available through the VRUs to make a difference. At a strategic level, partners collaborate on positive system change, some examples include; better sharing of data and information to help identify risk at the earliest stage, reducing the use of school exclusions and embedding trauma-informed approaches across all key agencies.

“I am delighted that the VRU work has received a three year funding settlement. This funding means that we can properly plan, evaluate and work to sustain what has been achieved so far.

“In my Police and Crime Plan, I discuss the importance of building on a public health approach that is used by the VRUs to ensure a range of agencies are supporting those young people who most need it. We need to ensure agencies across the board are identifying vulnerability and intervening early to prevent serious violence.”

PCC Mark Shelford

If successful in the application to the Home Office, the PCC plans to continue a locally driven approach to the VRU work and will devolve the majority of the funding to the five local authorities, with the OPCC supporting and coordinating VRUs. The OPCC will also set strategic direction for partners and deliver governance through the Avon and Somerset Strategic Violence Reduction Board.

“Despite being in our 3rd year of delivery, the local VRU landscape continues to develop. It is an area full of complexities and priorities that so many partners and communities have a stake in. VRUs and associated funding is not an overnight fix to the challenges faced; it takes time to understand the root causes, what works in terms of tackling them and how we build resilient communities. We pledge over the next three years to continue working to make a difference and bring as many people with us along the way.”

Avon and Somerset Strategic Serious Violence Board OPCC VRU lead, Charlotte Pritchard

In addition to the VRU funding, Avon and Somerset Police  are set to receive £717,275 in order to continue and develop their ‘hotspot policing’ initiative in 22/23, which involves police operating regular, intensive, high-visibility police foot patrols, where data analysis shows there is a risk of serious violence.

“I am delighted that the VRUs in Avon and Somerset will continue to receive funding over the next few years. It will help to sustain this vital multi-agency approach to diversion and intervention, which helps to keep young people away from crime and serious harm. The VRU model allows us to work collaboratively with our partners and has seen us embed police officers in those teams to ensure that data is shared and relationships are built with our most vulnerable young people.

“The additional money to continue our high visibility patrols in areas of high demand for crime and serious violence will be welcomed by communities and business owners who have seen crime and anti-social behaviour reduce in many areas as a result of this approach. Having our officers out on the streets, visibly engaging with the public is a real deterrent to those who wish to cause harm in our communities. Sustaining this model is not always possible due to demand in other areas, so this extra funding is very welcome.”  

Avon and Somerset Police’s lead for Serious Violence Superintendent James Raphael