Merseyside’s PCC announces new public health approach to tackling serious violence

Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner with Professor Sir Jon Murphy, former Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and Professor of Advanced Policing Studies at LJMU and Professor John Ashton CBE discussing the launch of the Violence Reduction Partnership.

Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has announced her intention to establish a new Violence Reduction Partnership made up of specialists in police, health and local government working with communities to deliver a public-health approach to tackling the causes of serious violence.

PCC Jane Kennedy is meeting with a range of partners to seek agreement to establishing the multi-agency partnership, with the aim of preventing and reducing the incidences of violence, as well as identifying the underlying reasons for the recent increase in serious crime on Merseyside.

The announcement comes in response to the Prime Minister’s recent youth violence summit at which a consultation was launched on introducing a public health duty to tackling serious violence. It also follows the Government’s announcement that they would be allocating £100m to tackle the surge in serious violence across the country. Merseyside Police are still waiting to hear if their proposal to establish the policing aspect of a Violence Reduction unit will be supported with funding from this Serious Violence fund.

Spearheading the development of this partnership will be Professor Dr John Ashton CBE, the former Regional Director of Public Health for the North West. Professor Ashton, who is a Senior Consultant Advisor to the World Health Organisation’s ‘Healthy Cities’ project and a former Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Health Select Committee will act as the Commissioner’s Public Health Advisor, helping to coordinate the response among health partners.

Following the announcement, the Commissioner will work with Professor Ashton and partners to identify and appoint an independent Chairperson to lead the partnership. Plans are also underway to hold a summit with all the partners to develop a shared vision and strategy. This will include producing a 10-year Violence Reduction strategy that will lay out the partnership’s objectives and set out the benchmark data that will be used to measure the impact of the partnership’s work. The partnership will build on what works and share best practice, with research already taking place to assess similar models in other areas, including Glasgow, Manchester and London and overseas in Colombia, the USA and Canada.

Jane said, “The causes of serious violence are extremely complex and deep-seated. It is not possible to simply ‘police’ our way out of violent crime. We need to look beyond, at societal problems including poverty, mental ill-health, education, issues of addiction and lack of opportunity. Central Government are also pushing for a public-health focused response to addressing this issue and as region we need to respond to this challenge.

“By developing this partnership, I want all the agencies who have a role to play in policing and community safety to step up and play their part in addressing the contagion of serious violence. Between all the partners we have a wealth of information and data on many of these factors, but at the moment we are not using it as wisely as we could, nor targeting our activities to have maximum impact.

“By bringing together specialists from across the sectors to set up this Violence Reduction Partnership, my aim is to pool our combined intelligence and resources so that we can diagnose the problem, better understand it and then develop and deliver effective plans to address the areas of most need. By sharing knowledge and understanding, we will be able to build on the great work already being done to ensure our endeavours are better resourced and more targeted.

“I am delighted that Professor John Ashton is joining me to spearhead this work. He has a long and distinguished track record working in public health, regionally, nationally and internationally. He will bring a wealth of learning and expertise to the project team and help me in ensuring we have all the right partners around the table, who are examining the right data in the most critical way to make the biggest difference to communities in our region.

“Merseyside is a fantastic place to live, work and visit. As those who are responsible for delivering public services in the region, we are all committed to ensuring this continues to be the case for our residents and to enhancing this reputation beyond our borders. We cannot allow the contagion of serious violence and gang related activity to damage the revitalisation of our region.”

Professor Ashton said, “I am thrilled to be invited to work with the Commissioner to develop and drive forward a long-term public health approach to tackling violence in Merseyside. Serious violence is a disease which is infecting our communities. After years of treating such events as moral failings, demanding a policing response, there is finally a wider recognition that this issue needs a public health response.

“We know that this approach can and does work, we have seen the evidence from other parts of the world. While much has been made of recent efforts in Glasgow, the roots of this approach can be traced to Cali in Colombia, where impressive results have been achieved by adopting this approach. The development of this partnership is the first step in replicating this process. By listening to communities, using the best available evidence and by trying this new approach, we can provide real solutions to the causes and triggers of serious violence in our region.

“As a Liverpudlian, born and bred in the city, I want to see our region go to the next stage of its renaissance, where we do not allow violence and anti-social behaviour to besmirch our great city and we take a collective stance against this type of behaviour.”