Brooke Kinsella: Teach children about knife crime

Brooke Kinsella: "Early intervention is so important"

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Children as young as 10 should be taught in school about the dangers of knife crime, a report from ex-EastEnders star Brooke Kinsella says.

Her 16-year-old brother Ben was stabbed to death in north London in 2008.

Ms Kinsella, 27, appointed a government adviser on the issue last year, called for a scheme to deal with the "fear and fashion" factor of knives.

The Home Office has announced it is to spend £18m over the next two years to combat knife, gun and gang crime.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Ms Kinsella was doing "invaluable" work to tackle knife crime but the government was "being completely disingenuous".

Ms Kinsella has been a vocal campaigner on the issue of youth violence since her brother was stabbed 11 times on a night out in Holloway, north London.

Since then, Ms Kinsella has sat in on education sessions, met youth mentors and spent time talking to young people.

"I really believe the problem of knife crime has escalated in the past few years, and the impact it has on communities and families is devastating," she said.

Peer pressure

Her report calls for more early intervention, education and awareness to start at "primary school level," particularly for 10 to 11 year olds before they start secondary school.

"Whilst seven may be deemed too young for some of the content I experienced in the projects I visited, it seems to be the majority opinion that education and awareness needs to start at primary school level, particularly in the last year before they move up to secondary school and become more susceptible to peer pressure and influence," she said.

Start Quote

We've got to act now before anyone else goes through what my family and countless others have been through”

End Quote Brooke Kinsella Knife crime campaigner

Ms Kinsella's report recommends more work should be done to convince employers to take on those who have minor criminal records and there should be more data-sharing between police, schools and other agencies.

More work was needed to turn prisons and young offender institutions into "places of punishment" as they were often seen as "a holiday camp", she added.

Speaking about her brother's murder, Ms Kinsella said: "Our lives were destroyed when we were told he would never be coming home again."

She said her report did not contain life-changing original ideas and would not solve the problem overnight.

But she added: "The fact that these ideas are still being suggested and certain obstacles are still being spoken about means enough hasn't changed.

"To bring it home to all of us, every week in England the equivalent of a whole school class, more than 20 children, turn up in hospital with stab wounds.

"Too many people, young and old, have become immune to the latest news of a knife murder. People aren't shocked any more about the stabbing of a child and that's not right.

"We've got to act now before anyone else goes through what my family and countless others have been through."

The Home Office said the money would go towards police, local agencies and voluntary groups in England and Wales.

Almost £4m will go to the three police force areas with the biggest knife crime problem - London, Manchester and the West Midlands.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Brooke Kinsella has done a great job in highlighting what works and what could work better in trying to achieve that.

"Off the back of Brooke's recommendations, we will invest money into changing attitudes and behaviour, alongside being tough on those who persist in being involved in senseless crimes."

Yvette Cooper welcomed the report but said the government was promising £4m at the same time it was cutting £480m from the police forces' budgets.

"The cuts are 100 times bigger than the extra help they are offering... and extra support for prevention will be swamped by the 28% cuts to councils, youth services and police support in schools.

"If the government is serious about tackling knife crime they should stop the cuts to police on the beat and help protect the work by schools and youth services across the country," she said.

There was also "complete confusion" about the government's sentencing policy, she added.

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