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Government to join forces with employers and charities to tackle gun violence, Minister

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Renée Ming, the Minister of National Security (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Employers and third sector agencies are to join a number of Government departments in the latest efforts to tackle gang violence.

Renée Ming, the Minister of National Security, told the House of Assembly: “We will not police our way out of this problem.”

She added: “We must assist those who are in gangs with a way out and tackle the root causes.

“We must provide opportunities to the next generation that makes being a productive and law abiding member of society a better alternative than joining a gang.”

Ms Ming said that many of the island’s young people were “victims of generations of economic inequality”.

She told MPs: “There are many reasons why individuals join a gang.

“Unfortunately it is a lifestyle that is glamorised in television, movies and music.

“A gang provides identity, respect, security, a sense of belonging and support that they may not be getting at home or from the community.

“The reality is that for some, it provides a more attractive lifestyle than being a law abiding productive member of society.

“Gangs offer social support systems and the opportunity for financial gains that our young people are struggling to find through traditional home and work pathways.”

The minister said that the Government’s Gang Violence Reduction Team provided programmes that aimed to address a gap in the lives of some young people.

She told the House that 15 men got a 30-week work placement on the Redemption Farm programme.

Ms Ming said that ten trainees moved on to employment or education.

Members heard that the GVRT partnered with companies to provide mentoring schemes and internships to pupils involved in the team’s school programmes.

Ms Ming said that her ministry’s goals included changing the habits of people involved in gang violence and returning them to “mainstream society”.

It is hoped that job opportunities can be found for people “who have previously not been employable due to antisocial backgrounds”.

Goals also include a plan to “connect at-risk youth, men and women with the necessary helping agencies that will aid in addressing mental and social health issues” and an increased "focus on fostering and sustaining positive interpersonal relationships“.

Ms Ming said: “GVRT clients carry life histories marked by poverty, violence, marginalisation and intergenerational abuse and neglect.

“Many have incarceration experiences or have pending charges and cases.

“The young men we support face additional challenges presented by institutionalisation, discrimination, community judgment, major educational gaps, negligible work history, and criminal records [or] criminal proceedings which can preclude employment.

“For many of our clients, substances are a way of coping with the pain of gang involvement, homelessness, and mental health issues.”

She said that a “multi-agency approach” included the ministries of education, labour, social development and seniors, youth, culture and sports, legal affairs and public works.

Ms Ming added: “We will also be partnering with third sector agencies and employers to provide additional services and opportunities for our at-risk youth.”

She said these included counselling services, help with education, careers guidance, financial assistance and job opportunities.

Ms Ming said: “There is no one size fits all and each at-risk youth will be assessed to match the right services and programmes to meet their needs.

“We must work to rebuild the sense of community that has eroded in recent years.”

* To read the ministerial statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published November 29, 2021 at 7:54 am (Updated November 29, 2021 at 7:54 am)

Government to join forces with employers and charities to tackle gun violence, Minister

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