Tara Sheppard-Luangkhot, Peace and Conflict Studies PhD student and RDaVR Intern
Let’s take a moment to honour the victims of terrorism who have died, and who have been impacted by terrorism and violent extremism in Europe. At RJ4ALL we are inviting our online communities to light a candle on March 11, 2021. On our RJ4All social media (Twitter and Instagram @RJ4All, Facebook @Restorative Justice for All International Institute, @Restorative Justice Research Network, and/or @Rdavr), there will be posts on March 11, 2021 for an online candlelight vigil. Please post a photo of your candle in our social media comment sections, and let us know how you try to honour victims of terrorism, and how you try to prevent violent extremism and terrorism in Europe and wherever you are in the world.
The Global Terrorism Index shows that far-right and religiously motivated terrorism continue to impact Europe and several parts of the world (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2020). RJ4ALL has multiple projects dedicated to preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism in Europe. We are dedicated to healthy communities where people are not victimized by terrorism, violent radicalisation and violent extremism. In our efforts to respond to terrorism, RJ4All’s Internet Journal of Restorative Justice published a special issue on violent youth radicalisation, read more at https://www.rj4allpublications.com/product/special-issue-editorial-violent-youth-radicalisation-perspectives-and-solutions/ RJ4All also offers several CPD accredited restorative justice e-courses to prevent violent radicalisation and support victims such as “Safeguarding and Empowering Victims of Crime” found at https://rj4all.uk/online/courses/secv/ , or “Preventing Youth Radicalisation” found at https://www.rj4all.uk/online/courses/preventing-violent-youth-radicalisation/ and “Resolving Conflict and Addressing Group Violence” at https://rj4all.uk/online/courses/positive-futures/.
RJ4All Founder and Director, Dr. Theo Gavrielides also offers several free resources on his website at https://www.theogavrielides.com such as Youth radicalisation, restorative justice and the Good Lives Model: Comparative Findings from seven countries and Human Rights and Violent Extremism. Dr. Gavrielides has also written several blogs on the topic of violent radicalisation and violent extremism found at Blogs | London, UK.
RJ4All has multiple projects dedicated to preventing and countering violent radicalisation and violent extremism including “Violent Radicalisation, Human Rights and Restorative Justice” https://www.rj4all.info/RJ-Radicalisation . RJ4all has several projects https://www.rj4all.info/current-projects aimed at building healthy, strong and safe communities. Many of our projects are focussed on prevention of violent radicalisation such as YEIP at https://www.facebook.com/YEIPproject/ and the projects listed below.
Restorative Dialogue against Violent Radicalisation or RDaVR, is one of the RJ4All projects dedicated to preventing violent radicalisation, read more at https://www.facebook.com/restorativedialogue/.
RDaVR is an Erasmus+ project that aims to research and develop restorative dialogue curriculum to train European criminal justice professionals to prevent violent radicalisation. Interdisciplinary efforts could create more security and safety from terrorism and violent extremism ( IEP, 2020).
RDaVR will teach professionals to increase restorative justice and restorative dialogue skills that build resiliency, integration, self regulation and positive relationship among adults and youth at risk of violent radicalisation in the UK, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Spain and Ireland. Watch our RDaVR video at https://www.fa￼cebook.com/100007381333609/videos/2855409881381695/
RADEX is another RJ4ALL, Erasmus+ project that aims to prevent and redirect youth from violent radicalisation and extremism in Europe. At RJ4ALL, we use concepts of positive psychology and restorative justice in our positive prevention model underlying our theory of change.
At RJ4all, we honour all victims of terrorism by working to end violent radicalisation and violent extremism in European communities. We believe in restoring harm to communities impacted by terrorism, violent extremism amd violent radicalisation. By creating healthy communities where power is shared equitably and dialogue is restorative and peaceful, together we can build resilience against terrorism and violent extremism.
Institute for Economics and Peace (2020). The Global Terrorism Index Report. Retrieved from https://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/GTI-2020-web-1.pdf
By Christy Shaji
When people envision restorative justice (RJ) it is most often seen as an alternative to the current punitive system. However, RJ practices and philosophies are applicable outside of this system and can even help to reduce the number of criminal incidences in the future. This blog outlines the case for adopting restorative values in everyday life in order to create a mentality and culture underpinned by this ethos.
In all facets of today’s society, the immediate response to any wrongdoing is to punish the wrongdoer. This can range from being grounded at home, expulsions in schools, and suspensions at work. However, this authoritarian approach is often just reactive and does little to prevent further occurrences of wrongdoing. This is because this process reduces the involvement of the offender, by doing things to them rather than with them, failing to hold them fully accountable (Watchel, 1999). In contrast, RJ brings offenders and victims together to condemn the offense without attacking the individual. By separating the wrongdoer from the act, RJ provides a resolution that establishes control (like in punitive responses) while offering support to the individual (Watchel, 1999). Such supportive environments help to restore harm done, re-establish relationships and build a stronger sense of community, which allows individuals to re-integrate into society therefore reducing the number of harmful acts (Morrison, 2002).
There is research suggesting that the high number of incidences in schools is due to a lack of belonging and community feel (Mirsky, 2003). As schools become more crowded and put more emphasis on grades, students feel less connected to members of the school, which allows for selfish acts to occur more readily. And when they do happen, students are met with punishments like lecturing, detentions, and expulsions. However, studies have found these methods to be less effective at deterring bad behaviour than restorative practices (Watchel, 1999).
According to RJ, the primary aim of school rules is to protect students and staff and to ensure fairness. This means that offending behaviour should be seen as a violation of human relationships, rather than just rules being broken (Hopkins, 2002). This perspective puts the focus on restoring the broken relationship by allowing communication between wrongdoers and those affected. This is more likely to result in a sincere apology and changed behaviour as the wrongdoer has to face the impact of their actions. Empowering students and staff to engage in this process helps to foster the sense of community that schools currently lack. This connectedness helps to create a shared sense of responsibility and accountability, which is much more likely to deter misbehaviour.
In the U.S., Palisades High School implemented restorative practices and found it had many benefits (Mirsky, 2003). Not only did it reduce the number of disciplinary referrals, it also facilitated positive and collaborative relationships between students and teachers. Moreover, this environment of support enabled students to perform better academically. They found that the best way to practice RJ was to use informal restorative practices often, rather than formal RJ methods as a reactive measure.
Restorative practices can also be used to create better communities for youth living in residential care. Studies have found that children in the care system have a greater probability of having a criminal record than children living at home with a parent or guardian (McCarney, 2010). One of the reasons for this difference, is that parents are much more likely to deal with offenses privately at home, whereas offenses in residential care more frequently involve the police. When police are called to neutralise the situation most cases end in arrest. It is especially important to ensure youth in care do not enter the criminal system as existing punishments may not be enough to discourage reoffending. These youth, who feel they have lost everything already, may not see custody as much of a deterrent (McCarney, 2010). Instead, RJ can help to prevent these young people entering the criminal justice system, thus reducing the huge disparity.
Three years after the introduction of restorative practices in young people’s residential units, Hertfordshire County Council found a 23% decrease in police callouts (Littlechild and Sender, 2010). The young residents reported having a higher quality of life due to the improved relationships with staff and other residents. They also stated greater empathy and responsibility to others due to improved social capital. Furthermore, the findings showed an improvement in the young people’s conflict resolution skills and anger management. Similar to RJ in schools, RJ in this setting is most beneficial and effective when used immediately in an informal manner, due to the intimacy of the relationships. This again shows the need for RJ as a systemic and cultural shift rather than as a response.
It is clear to see that restorative practices can help to reduce conflict in institutions and public spaces, but these methods can also be applied to our personal lives. By navigating our interactions with family and friends guided by RJ philosophies, we can help to reduce conflict and establish more understanding and tolerance.
Zehr 2009 – Restorative Justice Philosophy:
- Respect others.
- Differentiate between the wrongdoer and the harmful act.
- Be aware of the impact of your actions and take responsibility when they affect others negatively.
- Try to involve those affected by a decision in the decision-making process.
- View conflicts as opportunities for learning and understanding.
- Sensitively confront everyday injustices.
Leading by example, we can assist in normalising these practices, helping to shift the current individualistic culture to a society with a shared sense of belonging and responsibility. Doing so will help alleviate the need for more formal RJ practices and reduce the number of conflicts further down the line.
Hopkins, B. (2002) Restorative Justice in Schools http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf
Littlechild, B. and Sender, H. (2010) The Introduction of Restorative Justice Approaches in Young People’s Residential Units: A Critical evaluation https://restorativejustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/The%20introduction%20of%20restorative%20justice%20approaches%20in%20young%20peoples%20residential%20units%20a%20critical%20evaluation.pdf
McCarney, W. (2010) A Restorative Justice Approach to Working with Children in Residential Care https://sites.unicef.org/tdad/4williemccarney.pdf
Mirsky, L. (2003) SaferSanerSchools: Transforming School Culture with Restorative Practices. http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf
Morrison, B. (2002) Restorative Justice and School Violence: Building Theory and Practice http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf
by Eleesha More
Around the world millions of young people work tirelessly each day by using their voice to make positive and lasting change. Young people are not only fighting for their own future but for the future of billions of other individuals and for generations to come. There are approximately 1.21 billion people aged 15-24 years old, which accounts for 15.5% of the total global population. They use their voice to protest and bring awareness to issues such as climate change, to defend their human rights, stand up when being mistreated and address the lack of or failure to take action by governments.
The concerns of young people are often overlooked and undervalued by society as a result of age-based discrimination. It is increasingly common for young people to hear the words ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ or ‘you’re just a kid’ when expressing their concerns about serious social and economic issues. Manu Gaspar, a peaceful protester from the Philippines says that he wants ‘world leaders to listen to young people and their concerns, rather than making condescending remarks.’
In the UK there are many organisations which promote the interests of young people such as The British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament. The British Youth Council is a great example of whose work is dedicated towards empowering young people, promoting their interests and representing their views to the government and decision makers at all levels. In addition, the UK Youth Parliament elects individuals aged 11-18 years to bring social change through campaigning. On a wider scale, the European Youth Forum gives a platform to youth organisations in Europe and the Commonwealth Youth Programme works internationally, in 54 countries, to empower young people. These organisations encourage young people’s participation in society and policy because they value their ideas and concerns.
However, the picture is very different across the world, especially in developing countries. In developing countries young people are excluded from any political decisions that will have an immediate and long-lasting impact on their future. It is estimated that 87% of people aged 15-24 live in developing countries which shows the extent to which individuals have little to no control of their future. It is particularly hard for young people to stand up for their rights and beliefs in developing countries because they face a variety of obstacles such as war, dictatorship or lack of resources which all have their own associated risks. Individuals face police brutality, imprisonment, torture and in extreme cases, can lose their lives. Out of fear, many make the difficult decision to not speak out or support those who are brave enough to do so. For example, Manu Gaspar, protests in the Philippines to protect his human rights and consequently faces police brutality and the risk of being shot.
In 2012, Malala spoke out publicly about the importance of girls attending school and their right to education after the Taliban took control of her village and banned girls from attending school. Consequently, she was targeted by members of the Taliban and was shot in the head on her way home from school. Malala had the courage to raise awareness for what she believed was not only important to her but other girls even though it placed her in an extremely dangerous situation. Since her recovery, she has continued her work to advocate for girls and established the Malala Fund, which is dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve a future she chooses. She has been a recipient of a Nobel peace prize and attended Oxford University. The Taliban tried to take her voice away and show others what was to come if they continued to stand up and speak out for their rights. This shows the extremes that people will go to, to suppress the voices of others and how age has no effect on their decisions.
The voices of young people are very powerful and with the use of social media are amplified. Social media is a tool that can be used to not only relay information to a larger audience and spread awareness but allow for movements to take place globally. Following the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida, the students announced a march in order to demand gun control reform after 17 of their classmates lost their lives. In addition, they created the ‘Never Again’ campaign in order to prevent tragic events like this occurring in the future. With the use of social media, #MarchForOurLives was used over 3.6 million times and allowed the issue to be broadcasted globally. As a result, this attracted the attention of a number of celebrities who donated to the cause and corporations who decided who cut ties with the NRA.
Furthermore, the march attracted millions of individuals and turned out to be the largest single day protest. The group successfully influenced hundreds of thousands of young people to register to vote and in turn there was a historic youth turnout in the 2018 midterm elections which resulted in 46 NRA backed candidates to lose. Although bills to tighten gun restrictions are on hold in congress, progress has still been made in other areas. For example, Florida announced the ‘Red Flag’ legislation which allows the removal of firearms from individuals showing signs of violent behaviour, the age to buy a gun was increased to 21 and the US Department of Justice banned bump stocks. This shows that young people have the power to make change and but just need the chance. The changes made to legislation were influenced by millions of young people who demanded change.
Furthermore, Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, staged a protest outside the Swedish parliament to demand a reduction in carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. This event gained a lot of publicity and started an international climate movement called Fridays for Future whereby students skip school to demand action to be taken towards tackling climate change. Social media has allowed this movement to be backed by over 14 million students who protest in 7500 cities on Fridays. Although no significant and immediate policies have been implemented to reduce environmental degradation, there is an ‘army’ of individuals who have taken immediate action by changing their lifestyles and encouraging others to do the same because of inaction taken by world leaders.
Aditya Mukarji embarked on a door-to-door campaign in India to stop the use of plastic straws. Within 5 months of hard work and dedication he was able to replace over 500,000 plastic straws in New Delhi with environmentally friendly alternatives. Over the course of two years Aditya prevented the use of 28 million plastic objects by persuading 150 establishments to go plastic-free. This begs the question; how much plastic use could be avoided in a nation with over one billion inhabitants if the government adopted a plastic straw ban? This indicates how influential young people can be and the impact they can have in their local communities. That is why it is crucial that world leaders recognise the issues which are being highlighted by young people and work with them to achieve an outcome that will be beneficial to society.
Giving young people the opportunity and platform to have their voices heard is extremely important as they are the future. Any decision or policies enforced now will have a greater impact on young people than any other group in society. We all know what greatness can be achieved when people work together so it is vital that world leaders, people of influence and power not only work with young people but become more open minded to the idea of change. It begs the question: what position would we be in if world leaders took more notice of the voice of young people? It is important to note that change cannot take place overnight but with hope, dedication and hard work we can work towards a brighter future.
Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP,
By Dr. Theo Gavrielides RJ4All Founder & Director
15 Dec. 20
A recent study compared how much people working in the private, public and charitable sectors boast about their achievements. Obviously, those working in the voluntary sector came last. This is not surprising. We do what we do as part of our civic duty as most of us make our work … our life. We don’t distinguish the time that we put for ourselves and families from the time we put for others. They are all the same! Although the results of this survey were not surprising, they were helpful as they forced me to look back at what we have collectively achieved this year, and pause for a minute. That minute left me full of gratitude and humility.
2020 has been a special year in so many ways. COVID19’s unprecedented health and socio-economic impacts can only be compared to what followed World War II. As we watched the death toll rise day by day, those of us working in the charitable sector felt double frustrated and lost. The government’s social distancing measures meant that we either had to find new ways of responding to our communities’ needs or accept defeat and either shut down temporarily or indeed close.
At RJ4All, we felt that we had to raise to the challenge. We closed our office and quickly set up a voluntary, home-based infrastructure that simply allowed our staff and volunteers to continue our charitable services. We simply could not watch the spiralling effect of COVID19’s consequences whether these related to health or other socio-economic and educational challenges. We also knew that if we don’t raise to the challenge now, our founding restorative justice values of equality, power sharing, respect and dignity would be betrayed.
But with suffering, inequalities and death, I have also seen our communities coming together like never before. Funders collaborated to coordinate a response to the crisis, while we saw our volunteers increasing by 120% just in 6 months. I could not be more proud of my team. Despite the many challenges, it is without doubt that 2020 has been the strongest year so far for our charitable institute.
We were honoured to have received the Highly Commended Award for the Best Charity in the 2020 Southwark Business Excellence Awards. RJ4All also received the ESC Quality Mark, signifying that all our policies are compliant with European standards for safeguarding, volunteering and work placements. Moreover, we were one of the 2020 Top 100 social enterprises in the UK (NATWEST SE100), while the Cabinet Office asked us to apply for the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
A huge thank you to the team, the Board, the Patrons, our funders and supporters. A personal thank you to you who is reading this blog. As you read our 2020 Impact Report, please consider joining us as a member, volunteer or just supporter. We need more people like you in these times of solidarity and change. Happy new year from the RJ4All family.
Watch this video to discover our current priorities and future plans.
By Sandra Jøgensen
Throughout the years, the Erasmus+ programme has benefitted a lot of people across Europe, including individuals and organisations from the UK. Erasmus+ is an EU funded programme made to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. The aim of the programme is to promote growth, employment, equity and social inclusion in Europe through the mentioned fields which are considered essential for the promotion of common European values, social integration, enhancing intercultural awareness and understanding as well as creating a sense of belonging to the same community among the European citizens. Erasmus+ also promotes the inclusion of people with disadvantaged backgrounds such as newly arrived migrants.
Another aim of the programme is to empower young people to actively participate in society and shape the democratic life in Europe by enhancing their skills and competences as well as providing them with professional skills that are required by the labour market in an attempt to enhance employment across Europe. Thus, this programme is considered an investment in knowledge, skills, and competences that benefits both individuals, organisations, and society as it contributes to growth, equity, prosperity and social inclusion in Europe and beyond (European Commission, 2020, p. 5).
Through the Erasmus+ programme, young people will be provided the opportunity to study, volunteer or gain work experience through training or internships abroad. Through these opportunities they can develop new skills, gain international experience, and enhance their chances of employment in the future. It also provides staff of educational institutions and civil society organisations the opportunity to teach or train abroad which contributes to enhancing their professional practice, creating an international network and gaining new perspectives and ideas. Lastly, the programme also presents organisations the possibility to collaborate with international partners to share best practice, enhance innovation, and offer new opportunities to young people across Europe.
The programme is funded by the European Union, meaning that participants will be covered financially by the European Union when joining the programme which is what makes it possible for many people to go abroad either to study, volunteer or work, as they do not have to worry about how to cover their living expenses in a foreign country. Furthermore, the funding also makes it possible for various projects to be carried out in collaboration with European partners (Erasmus+).
In practice, all this means that the Erasmus+ programmes offers many benefits for both young people, professionals, and organisations, though many of the benefits are often mentioned in relation to young people.
The opportunity to go abroad either to study, volunteer or train is a great experience for young people. It enhances both personal as well as professional skills, as studying, volunteering or working abroad brings with it a lot of useful knowledge and positive experiences such as testing and learning knew professional skills, gaining more knowledge and awareness of other cultures and their way of doing things, creating new friends and a new network, learning new language skills, and gaining new perspectives on things. Furthermore, by challenging yourself to be in a new an unknown situation, you will surely develop a lot of interpersonal skills and become more mature, independent, and confident as you also learn more about yourself and what you are capable of (Erasmus+).
All these experiences and skills empower young people and contribute to a positive development of their competences. This experience will also benefit young people in the future as it will help them develop skills that are invaluable when seeking employment in the future. International experiences look good on a CV and can help you stand out from the many applicants as many employers regard international experience significant when recruiting new employees (Araujo, 2020). Actually, research has found that people who have had an Erasmus exchange have enhanced employment possibilities and find work more quickly after graduation (Cole, 2018).
However, individuals are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of the Erasmus+ programme. The programme also enhances the connection the UK has with the rest of Europe, as many international students make use of the programme to be able to study in the UK. These students contribute to the international community and diversity present at many of the universities across the UK. In addition to this, these students also make a large economic contribution through their spending in the UK. Lastly, these students help strengthen the international connections of UK as they spread their knowledge about the UK, meaning that the programme also enhances the international promotion of the UK which could lead to further economic and political benefits (Cole, 2018).
Following Brexit, the future of the Erasmus+ programme and its implications for the UK are still unknown. Until the end of 2020 the Erasmus programme has continued to apply for the UK in the same way as before the UK opted for leaving the European Union. However, the government has yet to decide whether the UK will continue to be part of the programme after leaving the EU, as they state that they are open to participating in certain elements of the programme on a time-limited basis, if the terms are in line with UK interests (Reuben, 2020).
However, the government is also considering replacing the Erasmus+ programme with a domestic alternative that will continue supporting international exchange. That being said, it will be difficult to reach the same benefits through a national programme, thus implicating that many of the mentioned benefits of the Erasmus+ programme could potentially be lost to the UK and the UK citizens (Reuben, 2020).
This could be a fatal blow for UK universities as many foreign students may not be able to or want to come to the UK to study without any financial support. This could lead to economic issues, as the economic contributions from exchange students will be heavily reduced. Furthermore, it will make it more difficult for UK citizens to have the opportunity of going abroad and gain the skills and positive experiences which this entails. It will make it especially hard for citizens with a disadvantaged background as they may not receive the necessary support through another programme and can therefore lose the opportunity of going abroad due to their conditions, thus resulting in a more unequal society.
In general, it may also imply that young people will have difficulties gaining the necessary experience to enhance their job opportunities or will not be prepared for working in an international setting. This especially applies to students of language degrees where studying or working abroad is a compulsory part of the degree, meaning that many students may refrain from choosing language studies in the future if they do not have the economic means to finance a stay abroad by themselves. By limiting the opportunities to gain professional skills through international exchange and experiences, the labour market could also suffer and make it harder for the UK to compete with other international companies who may have more experienced and diversified employees (Fazackerley, 2020). Thus, the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus programme could have major consequences, both for the citizens of the UK but also for the society.
As a Danish citizen, I have personally gained a lot of benefits from the Erasmus+ programme. It has provided me both with the possibility of volunteering for an organisation in another country as well as studying and doing an internship abroad as part of my university studies. All these experiences have made me gain a lot of interpersonal as well as professional skills and, overall, just given me some amazing experiences in different countries where I got to know amazing friends and learn new things every day. I would not want to be without all these experiences as they have given me so much and I would encourage everyone, who has the opportunity of going abroad through Erasmus, to utilise it.
However, without the funding from the Erasmus+ programme, I probably would not have been able to go abroad so many times and gain so many positive experiences that have contributed immensely to the person I am today. I would therefore be very sad if the young people of the UK miss out on this amazing opportunity to develop themselves both professionally but also personally. Therefore, it is important to make the government aware of what the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme really means, both to individuals but also to the society.
Araujo, C. (2020) 10 Benefits of the Erasmus Exchange Program. Eurosender. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://www.eurosender.com/blog/en/10-benefits-of-erasmus/
Cole, J. (2018) Why Erasmus is important for students. Russell Group. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/the-importance-of-student-exchange/
Erasmus+. About Erasmus+. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from:
Erasmus+. Why take part? Retrieved November 4, 2020 from:
Gangs and youth violence continue to be a big problem across the world today. Children and young people are continuously being exploited by gangs to participate in criminal activities either through force, coercion, or bribery (Dearden, 2019). As youth crime is on the rise in the UK (Bhuller, 2018), it is crucial to raise awareness of which factors contribute to children and young people joining a gang or committing youth violence in order to understand how it can be prevented.
There are many reasons why young people join a gang or commit violence. Some of the most common reasons relate to peer pressure and the desire to fit in with a group, a desire of being respected and gaining status to feel more powerful, a need of protection or because they are lured in by the money (NSPCC, 2019).
However, there are also many other factors that put young people at risk of committing violence or joining a gang. These factors may be divided into categories of individual, family, social and environmental factors, thus making it clear that there are many things that can influence a child or young person to engage in criminal activities. Some of the individual risk factors include learning difficulties and exclusion from school, mental health issues, low self-esteem, aggressive behaviour, emotional distress, and involvement with alcohol and drugs (Public Safety Canada, 2007; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, a). Family risk factors involve problems at home such as neglect or abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, family gang members, lack of a parental role model, and economic problems (Public Safety Canada, 2007). The social risk factors include peer pressure, friends that are connected to a criminal environment, not being able to fit in with peers, and lack of being involved in any activities in the spare time (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, a). Lastly, the environment also plays a big role with the environmental risk factors including living in an area with high rates of poverty, unemployment, social inequality and existing gang activity (NSPCC, 2019).
These are all things to be considered when developing measures to prevent children and young people from becoming part of a criminal environment.
With youth crime on the rise it is also important to consider how the current situation shaped by COVID-19 might affect youth violence. During the lockdown following the pandemic, it was seen that gang related crimes in London actually decreased, as people were forced to get off the street, thus losing their place for conducting business and other gang related activities and crimes (Dearden, 2020). However, some fear that the crisis might help increase youth violence and make it easier for gangs to recruit and exploit children and young people, as the crisis makes them more vulnerable (Quigley, 2020).
Due to the pandemic, many people have lost their job, and unemployment and poverty rates are rising (Wintle, 2020). This also affects young people, as they may experience a drop in income due to their parents becoming unemployed. As poverty is a risk factor, this means that more young people could become vulnerable to being targeted by a gang (Quigley, 2020). Poverty could also push other people, such as family members, to join gangs and criminal activities in order to earn an income, which could also pose as a risk for young people, as they would be exposed to a criminal environment through the family (Elbro, 2018).
The pandemic has also affected general mental health negatively as feelings of stress and anxiety increases. Isolation makes it harder to be distracted from negative thoughts and the whole situation brings along new concerns, such as worries about loved ones or uncertainty about the future (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, b). All of this could make children and young people more vulnerable and, thus, susceptible to joining a gang or committing crime in order to escape from other daily struggles (Dearden, 2020).
Lastly, the many opportunities provided by community centres, sports and other forms of social activities have become limited, meaning that young people have become restricted in receiving support, socialising and engaging in fulfilling activities that contribute to the development of positive values and abilities that help build up resilience towards criminal activities by diverting them to a safe and positive environment (Big Lottery Fund, 2018, pp. 10-17). Without these opportunities, it is harder for young people to keep themselves busy and avoid seeking a life on the street. Moreover, many programmes and projects dedicated to combat youth violence are in risk of losing their funding’s due to the economic consequences of the pandemic making it harder to support young people and help them get out of gangs and criminal activities (Coronavirus: Concerns Covid could cause rise in serious youth violence, 2020).
Therefore, it is important, now more than ever, to protect young people and engage them in positive activities to build up their resilience towards gangs and youth violence. Children and young people should be made aware that there is still support to find although it might be in a different way than before. Organisations and youth workers have to adapt to the current situation by for example providing online support, creating online platforms for young people to share their worries and socialise with others, focus on making events and activities for smaller groups or even just one-to-one meetings. All this could help make sure that young people at risk are engaged with people outside of a criminal environment and feel the support and motivation to stay out of a life of crime (UK Youth, 2020, pp. 7-8).
Bhuller, A. (2018) Youth crime on the rise in the UK. Shout Out UK. Retrieved from: https://www.shoutoutuk.org/2018/10/30/youth-crime-on-the-rise-in-the-uk/
Big Lottery Fund (2018) Preventing serious youth violence – what works? Big Lottery Fund. Retrieved from:https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/media/documents/BLF_KL18-12-Serious-Violence.pdf?mtime=20181017132115
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) (a) Violence Prevention: Youth Violence – Risk and Protective Factors. Retrieved from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) (b) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Stress and Coping – Coping with Stress. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Coronavirus: Concerns Covid could cause rise in serious youth violence. (2020) BBC News. Retrieved from:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53397549
Dearden, L. (2019) Children as young as seven being used by ‘county lines’ drug gangs. Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/county-lines-drug-dealing-gangs-children-uk-exploitation-a8988916.html
Dearden, L. (2020) ‘Here’s your chance, take it’: Police visit London gang members at home to urge them to change lives during lockdown. Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/gangs-criminal-exploitation/
Elbro, D. (2018) Gang violence and exploitation intensifies as crisis deepens. Socialist Appeal. Retrieved from: https://www.socialist.net/gang-violence-and-exploitation-intensifies-as-crisis-deepens.htm
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On Wednesday 28th October at 1.30pm, with funding from The Mayflower Fund and the European Solidarity Corps, The Restorative Justice for All International Institute (RJ4All) will hold their FRED Mayflower Youth Awards ceremony.
The online ceremony, which will be hosted on RJ4All’s YouTube channel, marks the end of a 16 month long online competition in which young people have been submitting entries to commemorate the Mayflower, and celebrate culture and migration. The best submissions in each of the 4 categories (Writing, Art, Community Project’s and Music, Dance and Drama) are currently displayed in their online exhibition.
The awards 2020 are part of the FRED youth-led campaign run and managed by young people from across the world and hosted by RJ4All.
Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE said: “During these challenging times when it’s easy to feel lonely or overwhelmed, culture can help bring us closer together, so it’s fantastic to see so many wonderful and imaginative works or art submitted to the Mayflower awards. It really does show that our creative future is in great hands.”
At the event, guests will hear from RJ4All’s funders and local supporters, including Justine Simmons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Cllr Nick Johnson, Councillor, Surrey Docks Ward and Matthew Allgood, United St Saviours Charity. There will also be presentations from keynote speakers Martin Spafford and Joshua Garry, local historians and educationalists, who will be talking about the history of migration to the UK.
Dr. Theo Gavrielides, RJ4All’s Founder and Director said: “This is just what we need when the headlines are occupied by death and despair. The many submissions by our young people are a much-needed glimmer of hope. We are very proud of the strong equality messages that are sent through their art, and we are grateful to everyone who supported this initiative. There will be many to come”.
Throughout the course of the online competition, RJ4All have received some absolutely amazing entries including beautiful paintings and drawings, inspiring spoken word poetry, delicious migration recipe books, and ingenious hip hop songs! All of which reflect the major theme of the awards – celebrating the contribution of migrants in the UK.
One of the young participants, Sami Kashif (25) said, “My experience has been truly incredible. I have been able to express my artistic talent and explore crucial issues of immigration and community cohesion. Being someone with a mixed ethnic family has made this particularly interesting and relevant.”
And another younger participant, Jamarley Young (12) commented, “I loved taking part in the competition. I really enjoyed researching the different footballers’ backgrounds”.
With the support of their sponsors RJ4All, will be awarding the winners with amazing prizes, including iPads, tablets, theatre tickets, Coach UK items, £50 gift vouchers, trips to London Zoo and Kew Gardens, and career coaching opportunities and internships.
To access the FRED Mayflower Youth Awards ceremony, simply watch as it is streamed on RJ4All’s YouTube channel at 1.30pm on Wednesday 28th October and to view the online exhibition of the finalist pieces.
Notes to Editors
You can visit the exhibition by selecting the link in the project webpage: www.fredcampaign.org/awards-2020/.
“As a volunteer I supported the competition by helping to run a social media campaign, this included designing and sharing social media posts. I promoted each of our categories and their associated prizes. I also helped judge the submissions which was very difficult since we received so many incredible submissions from such talented individuals”
- Lara Riad, 19, RJ4All’s FRED Youth Advisory Board member
“FANTASTIC RJ4All! Just went on a virtual tour of the exhibition…….amazing!
- Clare, parent of participant
“Thanks for this – it looks fantastic!!! Massive well done to everyone involved.”
- Kate, facilitator, The APE Project – St Pauls Adventure Playground
Funders and supporters
“We are delighted to support this exciting community led project that commemorates the anniversary of the Mayflower sailing and celebrates stories of migration through cultural activities.”
- Matthew Allgood, United St Saviours Charity
“I’d like to add my congratulations to RJ4All. They are exactly the kind of organisation that communities, particularly post-Covid need. There work in seeking to bring communities and people from different backgrounds together has never been more needed than it has been today and this year with the anniversary of the Mayflower, it’s a poignant reminder of the powerful contribution that immigrants have always made to this country”.
- Nick Johnson, Liberal Democrat Councillor, Surrey Docks Ward
Half a year ago the world was a different place. We did not know what the expression “social distancing” meant, and the idea of a country being in lockdown sounded like something out of a movie. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, at RJ4All we received calls from young people that were concerned about their futures. Many of us suddenly started studying or working from home, exams were cancelled, and a lot of young people lost their jobs as restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels closed. The situation of lockdown also increased the levels of anxiety, stress and loneliness, especially among young people.
Six months later, we are almost used to the “new normal”. We carry a face mask on our bags, we wash our hands many times a day and we instinctively keep distance with people in the street. It could seem that things are indeed going back to normal: the number of positive cases is much lower than in April and May, and schools and universities are slowly reopening. However, the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on young people’s lives is still very present. The uncertainties about the future in terms of studies and opportunities for employment continue to generate anxiety. As a youth-led organisation, the FRED campaign is aware of all the new mental health concerns that young people are facing, and we want to help.
The “You are not alone” Covid-19 campaign aims to improve young people’s mental health, raise awareness about mental health issues and break the stigma often associated with mental illness. We want to tackle loneliness and empower young people by providing them with a sense of resilience. The project comprises the following services, all of which are confidential and compliant with RJ4All’s online safeguarding statement.
- Free helpline monitored by trained young volunteers, who are here to listen to you in total confidentiality, and provide you support and guidance. You can call us on 0333 332 5042 from 10am to 10pm every day. Whether you are dealing with anxiety or loneliness, or you need some support to access food and PPE, our team of volunteers is always ready to listen and help. This service is totally free, and we will not keep record of any personal details or issues discussed during the call.
- If you prefer to talk with our volunteers over a chat box, you can contact us every day from 10am to 10pm on our website. This service is also operated by certified volunteers and all data is confidential.
- Our FRED Website offers a youth-led community forum, which offers young people a free space to share their feelings and concerns with others, thus creating a sense of community, building relations and reducing loneliness. Users can create their profiles and discuss any issue related to mental health and wellbeing. The forum is monitored by our volunteers, who ensure that the posts respect the forum rules and that privacy is guaranteed. Anyone can contribute and everyone’s voice will be heard.
- We have also created a certified e-course that aims to train anyone wishing to learn how to improve their understanding of mental health problems. The training is targeted to anyone that wants to learn how to effectively support people who are experiencing poor mental health especially in relation to the implications caused by COVID19.
- We distribute free food and PPE to families in need in Southwark, and we periodically donate PPE to young people and organisations that work in the front line.
- You can join our Facebook group to stay up to date with our project and find out about free resources and activities.
Finally, we have a bank of free resources with over 200 links. These include free activities for children, families and young people, but also free courses, webinars and information about Covid-19 and its effects. There is also a broad list of resources about mental health and wellbeing, and many physical activities and programmes to do to improve your wellbeing.
 Research focusing on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health shows that young people aged under 25 are suffering more with mental health issues over the last few months than any other age group. The Guardian. “Under-25s bearing brunt of Covid mental-health toll – survey”. Accessible here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/aug/30/under-25s-bearing-brunt-of-covid-mental-health-toll-survey?fbclid=IwAR1HkfwI7f48fQtuP8IkFMLUIFcOR6pBGWRc9j0Y6iLXUpCRNAU6iAWBay8