Over £5M of funding has been awarded to Kent and Medway’s Violence Reduction Unit to support young people and communities across the county for the next three years.
Set up in 2019, the VRU uses a public health approach to help keep people safe from serious violence such as knife crime and raises awareness of child exploitation into gangs and county lines.
The new funding, awarded by The Home Office, means the VRU will be able to continue its work which has seen the number of robberies decrease by 29%, violence with injury by 7% and the number of county lines has reduced from 64 to 40 in the county over the last year.
In partnership with Kent Police, Medway Council and Kent County Council, the VRU has also funded 35 projects that support local communities and change the lives of young people.
A Tunbridge Wells parent said that her family would have fallen apart without the support of a VRU commission service, St Giles Trust: “My two children were both in very different but very bad places. Heather and Kelly showed us how to rebuild our trust in each other and learn to work together again as a functioning family. They kept my children safe and out of trouble and gave me the confidence to turn things around and now my kids are happy and settled - one at school doing really well and one working at his dream job - we have travelled such a long way with their help, patience, skill set and support.”
One of the VRU’s key areas of focus is raising Knife Harm Awareness. In February 2022, the unit worked in partnership with the Royal Marines Commando Chef Education Team to inspire over 1000 students in Medway, Ashford and Folkestone.
Headteacher of The Rowans PRU in Medway said:
“We have always worked closely with the VRU, supporting our pupils in preventing and addressing serious youth violence in our local community. The opportunity to have a workshop with Commando Chef was immediately acted upon. The pupils spoke really positively about the session, one pupil said, “I really enjoyed cooking with everyone all together, it felt like one big team”, another said, “He was really interesting talking about all the places he had visited around the World, I am going to look into joining the Marines”.
Following the announcement of the new funding VRU Director, Mark Powell said:
“I am extremely proud of the work we do and the support we have been able to offer local communities. It is so important that we continue to work in collaboration with partners to tackle issues that impact the people of Kent.”
VRU Co-director, Detective Chief Inspector Ben Loose said:
“There is still more work to do but we are on the right track, as you can see from our statistics. This funding means that we can carry on with the crucial work we have been doing over the last two years, particularly in supporting those vulnerable young people in the county.”
The areas of focus for the VRU for 2022-25 will be: Violence with injury, Robbery, Knives and Weapons, Violence Against Women and Girls, Gangs, County Lines and Young Street Groups.
The Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, whose office secured the money, said:
"The Violence Reduction Unit has proved its worth in Kent. They have pulled young vulnerable people out of some desperate situations and made the county considerably safer, by reducing the number of drug gangs on our streets. I’m delighted their work can continue.”