The struggle against young people’s involvement in serious violent crime was highlighted when the chief executive of Barnardo’s visited a new project in Bristol this week.

Javed Khan visited the ROUTES project which supports children and young people where there are known risks or concerns around gangs, knife crime and criminal exploitation.

Barnardo’s Javed Khan at Bristol ROUTES

This includes ‘county lines’ where criminal networks exploit, groom and trap children in travelling across counties to sell drugs.

The new service, funded by the Home Office, works across Bristol and Somerset and is delivered in partnership with Learning Partnership West.

ROUTES, based within an anonymous building in the city centre, works with children and young people aged from eight to 18 years old.

Staff provide one-to-one intervention for those requiring significant engagement, relationship-building and a specialist response to trauma.

There are also targeted group work sessions and preventative sessions for inner-city schools and pupil referral units.

Javed Khan was recently featured in a BBC Question Time debate on knife crime where he referred to young people in communities across the UK suffering from a ‘poverty of hope’.

He said:

“I was delighted to visit the Barnardo’s ROUTES project and learn more about the vital work it does with young people in Bristol.

“The team offer vulnerable children an alternative to a life of serious violent crime and the damage it can cause to their local communities.

“This is about supporting young people to make healthy choices and build a better future.”

Barnardo’s children’s services manager Ella Remes said:

“ROUTES provides young people with an alternative pathway at a critical point in their lives.

“What makes us different from other agencies is that most of our staff have been born and bred in the local area, and some have first-hand experience of the factors which can sometimes pull people in the wrong direction.

“We’ll help young people to explore, understand and challenge some of the distorted narratives around what it means to be a young person today, including managing conflict on the streets and the dangers of carrying weapons.

“We’ll also listen to what young people need to make positive changes in their lives.

“The aim is to turn them away from criminal activity and support them in taking practical steps such as returning to education and employment.

“It’s giving them a second chance before it’s too late.”