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Ilford youth club to offer self-defence classes and knife crime workshops amid 'surge in youth violence'

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 December 2019

Irfan Shah, manager of the Frenford Youth Club

Irfan Shah, manager of the Frenford Youth Club

Archant

An Ilford youth club plans to host workshops on the consequences of carrying knives and weapons, offer self-defence classes and team up with a mental health charity to help "guide and nurture" the borough's young people following a "surge in youth violence".

In a recent survey, Frenford Youth Club, based at the Jack Carter Centre in The Drive, asked 100 young people whether they felt safe in the borough, why they thought people carried weapons, what their thoughts are on stop and search and whether they would like to see more police on the streets.

Irfan Shah, the club's manager, said the aim of the survey was to understand what support and services are needed for young people who are caught up in or have experienced issues around knife crime.

The results revealed that 37per cent of young people believe gangs are the reason behind the rise in youth violence, with 22pc attributing the rise to music.

"Gangs and their associates post their music content on YouTube and Soundcloud promoting violence and hate," one respondent said.

"This has an incredible amount of influence on the younger generation."

When asked why young people carry weapons, 74pc said it is for protection and 12pc said it is down to peer pressure.

"I think they carry weapons for protection and for respect," one young person said. "You don't want to look like a fool in a large crowd, if you have an issue you use it in certain instances to let people know you're not a coward."

More than 65pc of young people said they do not feel safe out and about and 53pc said they did not support stop and search.

Based on the responses, the club has come up with a set of actions it plans to take, which includes teaming up with police and other agencies to teach young people how to be safe on the streets, avoid grooming and stay safe on social media.

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Other plans include classes with mixed martial arts expert Khalid Ismail, looking at how to defend yourself and how to get away from a heated encounter.

The club is also employing an on-site counsellor to support the emotional wellbeing of young people, bringing in organisations which work on gang crime and partnering up with Through Unity, a charity which works with grieving families of murder victims.

Mr Shah, the club's manager, said: "With a surge in youth violence, we felt it was within our powers to guide and nurture our young people through these difficult stages which no one should ever have to experience.

"The increase in deaths of young black people is a major concern but we need to understand why this is happening so we can deal with head on the challenges that lie ahead.

"It is imperative that the incoming government invest in youth provision and developing opportunities in work base education for young people disengaged with education and increase employment opportunities and deal with social inequalities.

"We have seen 4,000 young people attend our youth club in 2019 which speaks volumes of the need for more youth clubs and investment.

"I have always been a firm believer that much of the responsibility lies within the home and therefore as a parent myself feel its important we take note of what our children are doing and who they really are.

"We cannot forget those that come from broken homes or are in the care system, more investment and support is required for them.

"The future is has challenges but in the current climate we cannot hide, we need strong leadership.

"We believe that it is important to offer hope and do something to create change and not just complain."

Frenford Youth Club is open seven days a week from 9am-10pm, and 9am-8pm on Saturdays, offering sports sessions, music studios, workshops and a range of activities for both boys and girls.

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