Rap stars Krept and Konan have offered to help in a campaign to give young people a voice, MP Steve Reed revealed at Thornton Heath’s Youth Open Day.
Organised by Cllr Jamie Audsley, and Chief Executive of youth charity Music Relief Magdalene Adenaike, the event brought toether grassroots community organisations to network and share the services they offer with parents and young people.
There was also a panel discussion aimed at developing a strategy to respond to youth violence and knife crime.
The local MP, who is establishing a Youth Trust, said: “A lot has been said about giving young people a voice, I think a voice is not enough because the powerful can choose not to hear that voice, so it has to be backed up by power of its own to insist on being heard.
“The way we do that is we set up community organisation, a Youth Trust, here in Croydon, that brings groups together and helps them achieve more collectively. The Trust with the organisations in it, must engage with young people on their terms not on our terms, so I was really pleased that Krept and Konan from Thornton Heath, have offered to help with the Trust.
“They have an incredible reach on social media, that connects with young people, in the way that no MP or probably any other elected person could ever do, so we can use those channels to reach young people on their terms and then engage them in activities.
“This community is financially poor and we know that is going to take a while to fix that but it is incredibly rich in passion and vision and ideas, so let us go and dig that gold mine and release the wealth that is in our community to support our young people.”
Young people shared their desire to get better integrated youth provision into their schools, support peers most at risk, find structured opportunities to get involved in and improve services to tackling mental health.
Police said the total incidents of violent crime with sharp weapons in the borough were actually down last year but sadly youth violence is still rising in the first quarter of this year. Resources are focused on tackling known groups and gangs with targeted stop and search. Community and police collaboration is key to tackling it.
Many in the audience were concerned about school exclusions leading to youth violence and increasing pressures on young people due to social media.
Councillors said that with the available resources, efforts are focused on co-ordinating a public health response; finding preventative long term solutions and ensuring local organisations are supported and get access to funding.
THE YOUTH VERDICT
Reduce crime rates in Croydon….increase opportunities for young people. This is the aim of Croydon’s first ever Young Mayor, William Awomoy, writes Catherine Momoh.
He is speaking at the Thornton Heath Youth Day, held in St Paul’s Church. The aim of the event was to provide opportunities for young people and find a productive way to reduce knife crime.
Several local charities had stalls for sports club, music clubs and various support groups.
The role of Croydon Young Mayor was established so young people – of which Croydon has the largest population in London – had a platform to share their concerns.
The main role is to represent Croydon’s young people to authority figures, including local politicians and the police. As well as getting their views across to different organisations, the pair also go into schools and listen to what young people have to say.
William’s concern, like many in the area, is that young people do not have enough innovative and productive things to do in their free time. Describing himself as ‘lively, communicable, determined, analytical and adaptable,’ the 15-year-old wants to find innovative things for young people to do.
As a representative of the youth, he wants to work with local organisations to stop young people turning to crime.
Deputy Young Mayor, Shea Williams, is also concerned about young people using their time productively.
As well as attending school and being Young Mayor, Shea is an army cadet. She wants to ‘create career opportunities for young people [and] ensure young people have connections and the life skills they need.’
For her, young people in Croydon do not have the necessary connections to break into certain career paths.
During a panel which included Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, both raised several issues affecting young people in Croydon: poor mental health, exam stress, peer pressure and lack of safe spaces. Shea suggested that organisations should try to reach out to young people in schools.
‘Don’t wait for young people to come to you. Go to where they are.’
William and Shea pictured above
THE PARENT’S VERDICT
One parent explained how her motivation for attending the youth open day with her son was to keep him safe.
Having recently experienced an incident at his school in Croydon where an 11-year-old boy had been excluded for being armed with a flick knife, the mum expressed concerns about how boys are more likely to be targets of knife crime.
While her 13-year-old son enjoyed an art class put on by Priya Barot from the Living Free Collective, she added: “We have given him the talk about not hanging around after school and coming straight home and if there are any problems to ring me straight a way and I will come and get him.”
“I don’t know if the authorities can do anytying about it. It’s more about parents bringing up children correctly and ensuring they don’t carry knives.”
Another mother during the panel debate retold a conversation with her daughter who believed that there was a perception that ‘poor areas’ don’t ‘change’. She went on to explain that young people need a sense of ‘ownership’ of where they live. Her child went to school in Purley but wouldn’t tell here schoolfriends she lived here because of the negativity associated with Thornton Heath.
THE POLICE VERDICT
For many in the area, crime is a big worry.
For DCI Richard McDonagh, prevention is better than cure. He believes that we should try to stop people entering gangs, rather than attempting to remove them once they are already there.
He also wants to improve communication between young people and authority figures, including the police and school teachers.
Speaking to Youth Chronicle reporter Catherine Momoh, he explained: “Its very difficult for police to intervene to disrupt things from happening unless people give us information and prior warning. When we have an incident where someone has been attacked or stabbed we have to work backwards. I would like to be able to work forwards and stop it happening in the first place.”
He also explained that he wanted young people to feel comfortable speaking to the police about criminal activity they witness. When asked how to repair the poor relationship between young people and the police, his response was for police to get engaged with young people in youth groups, through representation of services in schools …. “they need to not just be present but also engage,” he added.