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UK News

Youth pastor backs MPs call for knife crime funding boost

by Heather Preston

A London youth pastor has backed a call by MPs for more investment in services to protect children from knife crime and gang culture.

A cross-party group of politicians is urging the Chancellor to set aside more money for youth programmes in Wednesday's Budget to prevent youngsters being drawn into a life of crime.

The latest report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime and Violence Reduction reveals a "clear correlation" between areas that cut spending on youth services and those with the fastest increase in knife crime.

Youth pastor at Sutton Christian Centre, Mark Edwards told Premier it is a "huge" concern amongst the young people he works with.

"I pastor countless of kids through this stuff. A majority of them are carrying knives with no intention of using them, but they're carrying them out of a fear motivation. Within youth culture, it's almost saying, 'well, he's got a knife, so I better have a knife as well, just in case'."

Recent figures from the YMCA echo this, with data revealing 1 in 5 young people fear becoming a victim of knife crime, while 55 per cent of those surveyed felt youth groups were key in providing safe, alternative spaces for them to spend their time.

Edwards said Christian youth groups can help to release children from lives of fear.

"Jesus has called us to be free in him. And when you're carrying knives out of fear, you're not functioning by freedom.

"We've had kids come in and surrender their knives and accept Jesus and I've taken their knives into the police station. [Christian youth groups] do make a fundamental difference."

Well-funded youth services are "imperative" in protecting kids from gang culture, according to Edwards, "you can't close a load of youth clubs, strip back budgets and expect not to see ramifications." 

In the last decade over a billion pounds of youth service funding has been taken away by local authorities across England and Wales. 

Sarah Jones, chairwoman of the parliamentary group, said: "Knife crime is at record levels and too many young people are dying on our streets.

"Meanwhile, children across our country have seen youth services reduced or stripped away entirely in recent years."

The group is asking the government to increase its £500 million investment pledge announced last autumn, in Wednesday's Budget, arguing it is not enough to transform the system.

Edwards backs the call, he said: "I think it's a fantastic idea, and it should have been done a lot earlier.

"I think it's better to have a fence at the top of the hill than an ambulance at the bottom. I don't think there is too much they can invest into this - this is paramount within youth culture, especially in the capital at the moment."

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