A series of questions and answers took place in the House of Commons on Monday that involved Sajid Javid and the focus was related to “Violent Crime: Young People” and knife crime was seen as one of the key elements of the violent crimes. The final question came from the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbot who amongst other matters raised the question “Will the Home Secretary tell us how often the Prime Minister’s knife crime taskforce has actually met?” Clearly we are about to obtain a new Prime Minister and it seems highly speculative to assume that decisions taken by Theresa May back in March when the knife crime Task Force first met, will be respected or honoured by either Boris or Jeremy once they are appointed. In any event the frequency of a task force will indicate how serious and meaningful the task is.
The response from Sajid Javid in part reflected some of what he had said previously and some of the questions others had asked in the short Q and A session: “There is no one single answer—we have talked about resources, new powers, early intervention and, of course, the public health approach—which is why we are working across Government. We have institutionalised that in Government in many ways, including with the taskforce that the Prime Minister set up, which has already met once and is meeting again today.” Its easy to find lots of references to various task forces that have been set up over previous years to address the issue of knife and violent crime. This particular one first met in early March so we are past the 4 month period and looking like three meetings a year if they carry on at this rate.
I confess I personally attend and have attended many meetings that happen 3-4 times a year and these meetings have the opportunity to challenge the way in which organisations and groups of organisations can communicate and work together. They help to set strategic plans and measure how effective the plans are, setting the direction of travel that is consistent with the wider picture. However task forces are a different matter altogether, they probably need to begin to meet weekly or certainly monthly and in due course can perhaps reduce the frequency as they move from creating new mechanisms to developing their approach in a strategic manner.
An earlier answer was given to another Labour MP, Catherine West. The question referred once again to the issue that is at the heart of the challenge which also needs funds but much more than that. In any event Javid had responded to a number of people about the funding he was promising. However his answer to Catherine was: “The hon. Lady raises an important point and it shows precisely why we are planning to introduce the public health duty—to get more Departments and public agencies to work together in providing early intervention through many different types of programme. She is right to highlight alternative provision and some of the issues associated with it, especially how some of those children, sadly, become the target of gangs, and we are doing more work across government”
So what we now need is a much more dynamic task group and some indication of the work that is being achieved across the Government!