Theresa May hosts knife crime summit

On Monday April 1, over 100 experts attended a knife crime summit in Downing street hosted by Prime Minister, Theresa May.

The Prime Minister opened this week’s Summit setting out proposals for a new legal duty to ensure public bodies, including hospitals, raise concerns about children at risk of becoming involved in knife crime.

The joined-up approach would ensure professionals in health, education, police, social services, housing, and the voluntary sector work together, and are held accountable for, preventing and tackling serious violence.

During the Summit the Prime Minister also confirmed plans to create a new Serious Violence Reduction Unit, based in the Cabinet Office, to continue to drive cross-government action.

The Prime Minister will also Chair a Ministerial Taskforce, within government, focussed on improving, and better coordinating, our response to knife crime.

This will complement the existing Serious Violence Taskforce, set up as part of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, and Chaired by the Home Secretary, to bring together politicians from across parties, law enforcement and other agencies, regularly on this issue.

Government Ministers from across Whitehall will continue to chair a series of meetings throughout the week, harnessing expert knowledge to boost joint work and drive forward action in specific areas such as the justice system, healthcare and community support.

Watch the PM’s message following today’s summit

You can read the PM’s opening speech here :

Good morning everyone.

Thank you very much for coming here to Number 10 today to discuss tackling the issue that is a top priority for Government and for the organisations who are represented here around this table. But perhaps more important, it’s an issue that families, and young people and communities across the country, are concerned about and want to see us tackling.

And in the recent months we’ve seen an appalling number of young lives that have been cut short or devastated by serious violent crime, including a number of horrifying incidents which took place just over this weekend. And as we look at what’s happened of course what we also see is that in many cases the perpetrators of these crimes are as young as our victims. And this is something that has to be of deep concern to us all.

It is a challenge that collectively affects us as a society, and it is a challenge that as a society we need to rise up to and to act to deal with.

And not deal with as individuals in isolation – as single organisations or single politicians or individuals in the community – but actually dealing with it in a great, co-ordinated, wide-reaching and long-term effort. With all of us coming together to address this issue.

Of course we would always make sure that the resources and tools are there to be able to apprehend and deal with those who are carrying and using knives, and the police have what they need to do – but we cannot simply arrest ourselves out of this problem.

This is a wider problem. It’s more deep seated and we need to have a more coordinated effort in response to it.

If you think about it, if it was a devastating disease that was affecting young people yes, we would be treating the symptoms but we would also be asking ourselves the question of what is the underlying cause.

And that is that in relation to this issue we need to take the same approach to the cancer of serious youth violence.

It is more than just law enforcement.

And that is what this week’s summit is about. It’s about bringing together people from different aspects of society, with different responsibilities ,with different experience to ensure that we can build on the work that’s being done as in the Serious Violence Summit, and the Youth Endowment Fund, but also to make sure we come together in this multiagency, whole-community approach to serious youth violence.

And that’s where of course this approach, often referred to as the “public health approach”, is one of the things we want to be discussing this week.

That’s where everybody is working together across the system in multiple agencies – sharing information – but crucially making sure that every contact counts.

And to help make that happen, today we’ve launched a consultation on a public duty that would underpin such an approach.

I can also announce that we are setting up a new Ministerial Taskforce that will co-ordinate the government’s role and make sure all departments are playing their part. It needs, again, to be a collective approach across government as it is between government and other organisations.

And there will be a new Serious Violence Team which will be set up in the Cabinet Office as well which will have representatives from across Government to ensure join-up, and will also be well-placed to assist local areas as they build operational equivalents in their own Violence Reduction Units.

In a moment I’ll ask the Home Secretary to talk a little more about the size and scope of the challenge we face and the work we have already undertaken to tackle it.

But first we will hear from some of the experts who have joined us today.

I’m grateful to everybody around the table because everybody has come with expertise and understanding and experience of this issue. We have sitting around the table people who have delivered transformational change and real reductions in violence across the UK and the US.

So let me introduce Professor Mark Bellis, from Public Health Wales, and Dr Jens Ludwig, from the Chicago and New York Data Labs. I know you’ve travelled to be here today so thank you – particularly to Ludwig for travelling as far as you have to be with us here today. We want to be able to learn from you and I know that in the chat that I’ve had with Mark in the past about the different roles and the importance of the work that you’ve done, and we very much look forward to learning from both of you.

Nothing that is said today of course will bring back the young people whose lives have been so cruelly taken by serious violence.

But what we can do today is to send a very clear message that “this must stop” and a very clear message that collectively we will do everything we can to make sure that it stops.

And we can begin to shape this new approach that will meet the scourge of youth violence head on, so that more families are spared the unimaginable suffering that sadly too many families have endured in recent months.


Ahead of the Prime Minister’s Summit on Serious Youth Violence in Downing Street, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, will (1 April) launch a consultation on a new legal duty to ensure public bodies, including hospitals, raise concerns about children at risk of becoming involved in knife crime.

The new, multi-agency, ‘public health duty’ is intended to help spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger, such as presenting in A&E with a suspicious injury, to worrying behaviour at school or issues at home.

Similar approaches have been used in Scotland and Wales, and are designed to ensure every part of the system works together to support young people and makes targeted interventions before they commit violence or are groomed by gangs.

The joined-up approach could also include organisations jointly funding early intervention services to improve their coordination and would be backed up by legislation to make sure professionals in health, education, police, social services, housing and the voluntary sector work together and are held accountable for preventing and tackling serious violence. 

The announcement comes as the Prime Minister, Theresa May, is set to host a summit to tackle knife crime, which will also introduce this multi-agency response to violent crime. The Summit will bring together attendees from a diverse range of backgrounds including law enforcement, health, the voluntary sector and education. Young people with experience of living in communities impacted by serious violence will also be attending the conference to share their insights.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: 

“To bring about lasting change and protect young people from the tragic violence we have seen on our streets, we need to work across society to intervene early and stop them from being drawn into crime.

“Strong law enforcement plays an important role, and the police will continue to have our support on the front line, but we all need to look at what we can do in our communities, and in every part of the system, to safeguard young people. 

“That is why our plans to introduce a whole community – or ‘public health’ – approach are designed to identify more young people at risk.

“And this week’s Summit in Downing Street is focussed on ensuring everyone coming into contact with young people – from the police, health, education, Local Authorities and voluntary sector – work better together to make targeted interventions and steer them away from violence.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“Violent crime is like a disease rotting our society and it’s essential that all public bodies work together to treat the root causes.

“The public health, multi-agency approach has a proven track record and I’m confident it will help stop this senseless violence and create long-term change.

“I’m committed to ending this scourge and will use all the tools at my disposal to do so.”

Government Ministers from across Whitehall will continue to chair a series of meetings throughout the week, harnessing expert knowledge to boost joint work in specific areas such as the justice system, business, and community support.

Over 100 experts, including the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, the Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, charity leaders and Chair of the Youth Justice Board Charlie Taylor, will explore the scope and impact of new ideas whilst kick-starting a further programme of action.

The Prime Minister will also meet privately with the families of a number of victims of knife crime to listen to their first-hand experiences of this issue.

The consultation on a new legal duty to support the multi- agency ‘public health’ approach will open today to the public and professionals across the UK. The approach will be focused on delivering long-term as well as short-term solutions to preventing and tackling serious violence across England and Wales.

The statutory duty would underpin the multi-agency approach already being driven by the Serious Violence Strategy. This stresses the importance of early intervention to tackle the root causes of violent crime and recently the Government launched a £200m 10-year Youth Endowment Fund to create a generational shift in violent crime. The launch of the consultation at the Serious Youth Violence Summit complements the Government’s support for robust law enforcement, which saw £100m for police forces announced in the Spring Statement to support forces facing the highest levels of violence and the creation of violence reduction units. This is in addition to increasing police budgets by over £970m this year including council tax taking total investment to over £1bn. 

Following the eight week consultation period, the Government will then make a decision on tabling the necessary legislation.


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