SCYJ response to Home Office consultation on new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence

SCYJ has responded to the Home Office consultation on a new legal duty to support a multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling serious violence.

We support a public health approach to tackling serious violence which seeks to address its root causes and welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the need to shift focus from a punitive response towards a multi-agency, more preventative approach. We welcome the intention to encourage organisations to share information, data and intelligence, and work in concert rather than isolation to identify children at risk as early as possible.

However, we do not believe that the proposals contained in this document amount to a public health approach. We are concerned there would be a number of unintended consequences for both children and the agencies involved if a statutory ‘public health duty’ is created, without achieving the desired result of reducing the number of children harmed by serious violence. SCYJ’s key objections to the proposal to create a legal duty are:

  • A vision for tackling serious violence which is limited to the scope of the Serious Violence Strategy does not represent a holistic approach to protecting children from harm, which can consider the full range of partners and interventions needed, as well as the structural, political and economic factors that contribute. A broader strategy is needed which equips the safeguarding system, statutory and voluntary services to protect children from harm outside the home, with resources and guidance to do so. This should embed a response that takes account of the context in which children are at risk and is trauma-informed. A duty for serious violence, which presents these issues as distinct from wider safeguarding duties, could lead to a more punitive approach to these children which evidence suggests is inadequate to reduce violence.
  • Implementation of a new duty without additional resources or definitive guidance is wholly inappropriate for services already tasked with rising demand, crisis management options, and low retention of staff.
  • The potential consequences of a new duty in this context have not been fully considered, both for the organisations involved and children affected, including how the duty will fit within other recent policy such as Knife Crime Prevention Orders; and the impact on racial disparity.

SCYJ’s preferred option would be for the government to support voluntary approaches to multi-agency working, which leaves room for flexibility and adaptability, to ensure resources are directed most efficiently, reflective of and responsive to local needs.

Read our full response here.