Young people from across Bedfordshire have been given a platform to have their say about violence and exploitation. This is part of a new project led by the county’s specialist criminal exploitation unit.
The VERU Youth Voices podcast will feature young people from Barnfield College and Central Bedfordshire College in discussion with leading professionals who are working to protect and support young people in the county.
The podcast has been put together by the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit’s youth intervention specialist team. The team works with young people and families impacted by things such as knife crime and county lines.
The series of podcasts will be published between now and the end of March, and can be found on VERU’s YouTube channel.
Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, said:
“It’s particularly important to me that we genuinely give a voice to the young people who are, themselves, directly impacted by the consequences of knife carrying, gang recruitment and who are preyed upon and groomed by those who wish to lure them into running drugs, weapons and cash for them, especially along County Lines to other towns.
“This excellent initiative is a key part of this work and aims to reach young people via the podcast in a medium which they choose to use and will access above any conventional media campaign.”
The first podcast, which was released today (11 March 2021), features the young people in conversation with VERU staff about child sexual exploitation and grooming.
Future podcasts are set to feature discussions around young people’s mental health, rights and opportunities, as well as launching the VERU’s youth panel.
VERU staff and partners will also be appearing in radio interviews over the coming weeks to promote the project. You can listen to some of these initial shows on Luton Urban Radio.
Tasha Case, VERU’s YIS team coordinator, said:
“I think it is amazing that there is a platform for young people to have their voice heard across Bedfordshire.
“It is vital that young people are placed right at the heart of our response to tackling violence and exploitation, and this new podcast is just one of the ways we are making sure this happens.”
Hannah Piatkiewicz, student engagement and experience lead at Central Bedfordshire College, added:
“Community is more important now than ever, so it is really exciting to be working with the VERU Team and Barnfield College.
“Our students’ experience of working on this project so far has exceeded their expectations and we are all looking forward to continuing to provide a platform for young people’s voices.”
VERU is funded by the Home Office to lead and coordinate activity in Bedfordshire to tackle the criminal exploitation of children and young people. This includes:
- Organising a conference for parents and professionals to help them spot the signs of exploitation, which was attended by 200 people
- Delivering training to almost 400 professionals working in areas such as the police, local authorities, health, probation, education, youth offending and residential care placements
- Receiving 133 referrals to the VERU YIS team, which is currently working with 76 young people
- Funding and supporting delivery of more than 20 community projects which have helped hundreds of people during the pandemic
- Delivering child criminal exploitation awareness and diversionary talks to more than 600 young people across Bedfordshire
- Developing a bespoke series of guidance documents around different forms of exploitation to be used by frontline staff across the county
- Launching the VERU Village online directory of support services for those at risk of or experiencing exploitation
- Establishing a data and intelligence group around violence and exploitation to better understand the local picture, drawing on information from a range of different organisations
For more information about the VERU can be found on its website.