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VERU Village launches with more than £200,000 invested in community projects


A major new network of community groups and organisations has been launched to bring a collective effort to tackle the violence and exploitation of young people in Bedfordshire.

The VERU Village brings together the likes of teachers, faith leaders, charities and young people to work together and support families and professionals in combatting things like knife crime and gang exploitation.

The initiative by the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit reflects the unit’s mantra that it takes a village to raise a child.

The VERU has today (Tuesday) also announced more than £200,000 investment in different projects across the county which will work to support young people and provide things like sports activities, outreach work and mentoring.

A full list of projects supported by the VERU is available on the VERU’s website and included below.

A whole host of other community programmes to tackle violence and exploitation, commissioned by the likes of the VERU, the OPCC and Dallow Cares, has been collated by the VERU on their website.

Tasha Case, the VERU’s community and engagement lead, said: “Over the last four years, the VERU has been privileged to build fruitful relationships with countless organisations and community members across Bedfordshire and beyond.

“These relationships have since become the support system and preventative measure that thousands of young people have benefitted from - that is the VERU Village.

“We are a collective of partners and professionals with a vested interest in the wellbeing and welfare of young people.

“By working in partnership across different agencies and working together to achieve a common goal, we can ensure young people in communities across Bedfordshire are much safer.”

The VERU Village will be structured around six ‘huts’ – education, faith, family, frontline, inclusion and leisure.

These different huts will work to provide tailored support and coordinate activity in these relevant areas, such as to educators working in schools and colleges, frontline workers, sports and leisure activity providers as well as faith leaders.

Dozens of different people have taken on roles to support the VERU Village, ranging from healthcare workers and teachers through to charity executives and theatre groups.

The concept will launch with an event at the Rufus Centre in Flitwick this evening (Tuesday), while further information is available on a dedicated section of the VERU website which was relaunched this week.

Nigel Taylor, a VERU Village elder and church pastor, said: “The VERU Village has been established to house a collection of supportive, prevention and intervention diversionary huts across Bedfordshire.

“These huts will support countywide activities and initiatives designed to raise awareness of child exploitation and the ripple effects that it has on the community.

“The VERU Village is community and young person led, with the support from VERU employees and partners. All Bedfordshire residents and professionals are welcomed to become members of VERU Village.”

VERU funded projects – 2023/24

Bedford Community Safety Partnership / Groundwork

A joint project with the Central Bedfordshire CSP and Groundwork, youth workers on the project will run tailored outreach work in identified areas of risk.

 

Bedfordshire Open Door

Bedfordshire Open Door is an established counselling service with a strong local reputation.  The aim of this initiative is to deliver specialist counselling provision to young people aged 13 – 25 years who are at risk, are victims of crime and have had or are experiencing acute childhood experiences.  It will offer a mix of one-to-one counselling sessions on a 12-session model alongside group work on issues such as understanding anger and anxiety. A portion of the funding will match fund a weekly social group for young people.

 

Bedfordshire Youth Offending Service

The TREE Project (Tackling, Reducing and Ending Exploitation) will run joint patrols and outreach work in target areas such as town centres. The outreach work will focus on behaviour and be aimed at minimising risk and engaging with young people by seeking opportunities to understand their choices, encouraging them to make correct decisions about lifestyle and identify opportunities for them to avoid becoming vulnerable to exploitation.

 

Boxing Saves Lives

The academy will continue to provide one to one support to young people, onsite therapeutic support and martial arts and boxing classes. The sessions will also include presentations and social skill training being delivered by lived experienced trainers. The programme aims to help children to regulate their behaviour and effectively communicate in confrontational or challenging situations.

 

CANter Equine Therapy

The programme provides young people with the ability to be able to process their thoughts and emotions, being able to think before reacting to a situation, understand other points of view, and develop strategies to communicate effectively and manage aggression and impulsive behaviour.

 

Central Bedfordshire Community Safety Partnership

A theatre production will be delivered into 26 key stage two schools across Bedford and Central Bedfordshire. It will be delivered by a local theatre company called Solomon Theatres, who have already delivered several performances in Bedfordshire which have received positive feedback from schools. The production is called ‘Safe’ and focuses on bullying, importance of friendship and the dangers of carrying a knife. Its message is that carrying a knife will never protect you and is highly dangerous. It encourages students that confiding in parents or teachers if being bullied is the best way to tackle the situation.

 

Dan Gaze Support Services

Will provide additional support and capacity to the VERU’s youth intervention specialist team, supporting young people at risk of exclusion from schools and exploitation. They will provide one to one targeted specialist support for young people in Central Bedfordshire and Luton.

 

Link to Change

Link to Change will deliver group sessions in schools and youth clubs on healthy relationships, consent, safe spaces, and exploitation. Working with the VERU, this service receives referrals from various pathways and agencies.

 

Luton Community Safety Partnership

Continued project work to develop appropriate platforms to give young people a voice and provide their feedback on programmes and support services within Luton. The initial survey has now identified pilot projects that the VERU will fund to further this youth voice. This is a long-term project that works within identified hot spot areas as well as educational establishments.

 

Luton Town FC Community Trust

Will provide free weekly football and other sports sessions across Bedfordshire.

 

Luton Youth Partnership Service

The TREE Project (Tackling, Reducing and Ending Exploitation) will run joint patrols and outreach work in target areas such as town centres. The outreach work will focus on behaviour and be aimed at minimising risk and engaging with young people by seeking opportunities to understand their choices, encouraging them to make correct decisions about lifestyle and identify opportunities for them to avoid becoming vulnerable to exploitation.

 

Mary Seacole Housing Association

Seacole Academy offers training and guidance to help young people into employment, with three main options around barbering, hairdressing and barista training. These courses will provide individuals with practical skills and valuable knowledge in popular industries, opening doors to a wider range of job prospects. This increases their chances of gaining meaningful employment, but it reduces their vulnerability to exploitation, as they become equipped with marketable skills and knowledge.

 

Next Generation Youth Theatre

NGYT will continue to offer 18 VERU funded performing arts scholarship places to young people. It will support evaluation of their existing work, teaching methods and policies and look at ways to develop and strengthen the organisation’s reach. It will focus on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, inclusivity, accessibility, and engagement.

 

Reactiv8

To work with 18-25 year olds in police custody, with a view to continuing to work with them upon release from police custody and help them re-engage with employment, education or training if they are not currently involved.

 

Samsons Academy

The academy will continue to provide one to one support to young people, onsite therapeutic support and martial arts and boxing classes. Samson’s will also support events and trips away during school holidays.


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