Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) Background
In March 2019, the (then) Home Secretary announced a £100million Serious Violence Fund to help tackle serious violence. Of this, £35 million was allocated for the development of Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) across England and Wales. Eighteen Police force areas worst affected by serious violence received this VRU funding. A VRU is responsible for driving local strategy and embedding cultural change. Bringing together Police, Local Government, Health, Fire, Education, and Community Representatives for a multi-agency response to the local drivers of serious violence and the delivery response to tackle them.
Avon and Somerset police-recorded incidents between November 2015 and March 2019 were analysed and found that serious violence offenders represented less than 2% of the population.
In June 2019, the Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) was awarded £1.16million from the Home Office to set up a Violence Reduction Unit. The (then) PCC created a hub and five spoke VRU model, based on a public health approach. The OPCC is the hub, offering a central coordination function, in overseeing all five local authority spokes (VRUs), coordinating the Home Office grant allocation and ensuring that Avon and Somerset is meeting the objectives of the public health approach to tackling serious violence. The five local authority spoke areas (VRUs) are:
- Bath and North East Somerset (BANES)
- North Somerset
- South Gloucestershire
The (then) PCC commissioned the ‘Developing a Serious Violence Strategy for Avon and Somerset’ insight report, which provided the nature of serious violence across the area and evidence on how to approach the issue.
The five local authority VRUs work with key partners to form a multi-agency partnership, which continually identifies the drivers of local serious violence and development of local initiatives. These initiatives range from early prevention, to working with and diverting individuals who present as high risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of serious violence.
At a strategic level, multiagency partners collaborate on positive system change; including 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.
The VRUs are also informed by a range of other Government departments, including;
- Cabinet Office
- Communities and Local Government
- Department for Culture, media and Sport
- Department for Education
- Department of Health and Social Care
- Ministry for Housing
- Ministry of Justice
In 2022, the Home Office announced a further three year funding of £5.08million to the Avon and Somerset Violence Reduction team. This will funding will enable the Avon and Somerset VRUs ground-breaking work to continue.
Avon and Somerset PCC Mark Shelford said “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.”