The Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) – a charity with a £200 million Home Office endowment and a mission to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in violence – has today launched an innovative new report, showing how violence affects the lives of children across England and Wales.
Combining a survey of 2,025 children and young people with a review of national statistics, they’ve found that violence – and fear of violence – is shaping children’s lives in ways we previously hadn’t understood. That’s because, while other surveys have asked children about their experiences of crime and violence, the YEF’s research asked children about the ways that those experiences changed their behaviour – from attendance at school, to the friends they spend time with.
14% of children told the YEF been victims of violence* in the past 12 months. And almost two in five children (39%) said they’d been directly affected by violence, either as a victim or witness. Some children were far more likely to be affected than others; 60% children who were supported by a social worker said they’d been directly affected, while 55% of children that regularly miss classes and 46% receiving free school meals said they’d experienced violence as victims or witnesses.
The YEF also asked about online violence. More than half (55%) of children told the charity that they’d come across violent content on social media, with one in five (20%) saying they’d seen content that was gang-related and almost a quarter (24%) having seen material that involved weapons.
These experiences have real consequences. 65% of children told the YEF that they’ve felt the need to change the way they live just to keep themselves safe. For 14%, that even meant missing school. Among children who had been victims of violence in the last year, half said they’d skipped classes out of fear of serious violence.
So what do children think needs to be done? The YEF asked young people how they want adults to address serious violence, and the most common responses mentioned policing (26%) – children wanted more visible patrols to tackle the problems in their communities. They also said they want to see more activities for young people (15%) and better drug and alcohol support services (10%).
Violence isn’t inevitable – it’s preventable. Understanding children’s experiences is a vital first step to making change. But we also need to make sure that we’re listening to and acting on what they tell us. That way, we can make sure that violence – and the harm that it causes – is no longer a part of any child’s life.
Jon Yates, Executive Director at the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Violence is a scourge on many of children’s lives. Work by the government, public sector workers and charities can make a huge difference to reduce violence. Less violence means fewer children skipping school, fewer children missing sleep and fewer children losing out on opportunities. This makes the biggest difference to the children who are most likely to see and experience violence – those from minority backgrounds, those on free school meals and those who’ve been supported by a social worker.
“At the YEF, our work goes beyond understanding serious violence. We’re here to find out what works to solve the problem. Together with partners across the country we’re finding what works to keep children safe. Violence is not inevitable. Together we can keep children safe from violence and give them richer, happier, safer lives.”
Key report highlights
- In an online survey of 2,025 children, 39% told the YEF that they’d been directly affected by violence in the last 12 months (either as victims or witnesses).
- Over half (55%) of children said they’d seen real life violence on social media in the last year. And nearly a quarter (24%) had seen other children carrying, promoting, or using weapons.
- 65% of children told us they’d changed their behaviour to keep themselves safe from violence in the last 12 months. 14% had been absent from school out of fear.
- More than a quarter (26%) want to see changes to policing (such as more patrols) to address serious violence, alongside more youth clubs and activities (15%) and drug and alcohol services (10%).
Davelle, member of the Youth Advisory Board of the Youth Endowment Fund and Nottingham resident said: “It is saddening and shocking to see how violence, directly and indirectly, affects the lives of so many young people. No child should have to walk to school in fear or feel the need to carry a weapon when they’re out enjoying themselves. Surely it falls to us to make our streets a safer place.”
Fatou, member of the Youth Advisory Board of the Youth Endowment Fund and West Yorkshire resident said: “Unfortunately, I was not surprised by most of the report’s findings, especially when it comes to children being exposed to violence through social media. I’ve got younger siblings. It worries me how accessible this type of content can be to them. What worries me the most is that seeing violence everywhere you go has become the norm. People and especially children are desensitised to the horror that circulates around – and that’s really sad.”