On Wednesday 29th March, Brunel University students, who have been working with Initiatives of Change Sustainable Communities Programme as part of their Global Challenges degree over the past six months, concluded an aspect of their final year studies at the Houses of Parliament with a roundtable discussing knife crime in the city. (To read more about the students journey with IofC UK, read our previous article HERE.)
The students organised a roundtable discussion and presented their findings to the MP for Wythenshawe East, Mike Kane, as well as Councillors from London and Manchester, anti-knife crime activists, such as Michelle McPhillips who lost her son to knife crime back in 2017 in Islington, and other key stakeholders such as Perry Blake, founder of the 21up movement, and Sam Rowe founder of The Hard Knocks Academy.
The students have been researching knife crime in London and its effects since they began working with IofC UK back in November. Having hosted workshops and spoken to key players within the anti-knife crime movement and members of local communities, the students organised their findings and presented them to the group at Parliament and gave their recommendations for future improvements.
While presenting their findings the students noted that although knife crime is decreasing on the streets of London, it is still prevalent. Any victim of knife crime is one too many. From their workshops they held in and around London with local communities and from discussions with key stakeholders, four main themes emerged from their participants when it came to looking at causes and effects of knife crime.
These were: intimidation, the worry that children will carry a knife to protect themselves believing others are doing the same. Parenting, the worry that children are negatively impacted by parents who are unable or choose not to have an active role in their child’s life. Deprivation, which was the most talked about theme. Many participants noted that there is a lack of funding when it comes to after school programmes and activities for children which many said are paramount in keeping children off the streets and giving them positive role models. A big emphasis was placed on the ability of sport to do this. The last theme discussed was music and media and the effect that styles of music and art can have on children and the glorification of gang culture.
MP Mike Kane & Sustainable Communities Programme Lead Amina Khalid (seated centre) pictured after the roundtable with Brunel University students and key stakeholders.
MP Mike Kane from Wythenshawe and Sale East pictured at the roundtable.
Responding to the need for protective measures, Michele McPhillips and Sam Rowe shared a knife crime safety kit that has been developed and distributed to nearly all ambulances in London and to local shops in the Islington and Hackney boroughs. The kit is designed to be on hand for the first crucial six minutes of a person’s life after being stabbed; it stops the bleed of a penetrated main artery. Michelle states: “This kit can be used by police officers at the scene of a crime, before the ambulance arrives. If this kit was available when my son was here, it may have just saved his life.” Whilst the kit deals with the aftermath, the presentation focused on implementing preventative measures that educate people on knife crime prior to an incident occurring. An analogy that was shared during the session to describe the effects of knife crime depicted an inflated balloon, filled with messages of hopes and dreams, suddenly being popped with a knife to highlight how quickly hopes and dreams for the future can be taken away from a victim and perpetrator.
The presentation concluded with the students asking all around the table what was One Step they could take towards mitigating the issue of knife crime. Cllr. Michael Desmond was quoted pledging he would aim to ‘make more school visits, particularly with young people who have turned away from gang-related violence’ while MP Mike Kane vowed to follow up and discuss further with MP’s who form part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on child criminal exploitation and knife crime. Other pledges were made by councillors to share the student’s findings with their constituencies and to investigate purchasing and installing the protective kits shown by Michelle and Sam with their local MP to ensure action is taken all over London, and beyond.
Amina Khalid, Head of the Sustainable Communities Programme at Initiatives of Change who has been working with these students commented: “Progress was made in this meeting to develop steps to stop knife crime. The presentation brought together people who have the power to create reactional social change as well as legislative.”