Home Office backs Lime to bring about long-term change!

Following growing concern over attitudes, behaviours and beliefs about sexual harassment and gender, and backed by the Home Office, the Thames Valley Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has embarked on an ambitious project to comprehensively tackle the issues now and for the future.

Home Office backs Lime to bring about long-term change!

Whatʼs the problem?

Slough has a higher than average rate of violent and sexual crimes, and the ward of Chalvey is significantly impacted. Home to over 13,000 people, Chalvey is a distinct neighbourhood with its own sense of community and place. It is ethnically diverse with significant Pakistani, Indian, and European populations. The community has several challenges, including above-average levels of childhood poverty, low levels of satisfaction with locality, and high crime rates. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a local concern that prompted the bid for Safer Streets funding, a Home Office initiative that specifically aims to increase women and girlsʼ feelings of safety in public spaces.

How are we making it safer?

Young people told us that education is critical to combat problematic beliefs around gender and that this needs to start as early as possible. Our aim, therefore, is to develop a programme of activities to tackle the issues at a systemic level as part of a multi-disciplinary, partnership-led approach that includes schools. A large proportion of the activity outlined in the half-a-million pound bid is aimed squarely at early intervention, working with schools and alternative education providers to challenge toxic views around perceptions of gender.

The Choices Programme already supports local schools in tackling the vulnerability that young people feel, helping them become more sophisticated decision-makers able to make judgments that lead them away from harm. It does this by taking a deep look into how identity is formed, the myriad factors that contribute, and how influence and even the basic psychological needs we all have can lead young people to make choices to behave in ways they wouldnʼt ordinarily.

In Chalvey, our research has focused on what else young people might need to navigate the multiple challenges they face. Mark Ashfield, Lime’s founder and CEO, said: “We’re deepening our understanding by talking with young people and exploring the issues as they experience and see them. We’ll then co-design a whole range of additional materials, initially focusing on young people and local schools. Eventually, we want to support parents, designing specific materials to bring them into the conversation and ensure this important dialogue continues in the context of the home.”

Ultimately, the research will inform the design of additional tools to create a counter-narrative for young people. This includes a suite of learning and development resources for educational and youth settings; and materials to promote broader discussions with parents and carers.

How will we know it works?

Early aggressive behaviour is a risk indicator for later violence and criminal behaviour (EIF, 2015). Universally delivered approaches, such as the one we’ve implemented in Slough, help reduce harm by working with children and young people before problem behaviours become entrenched or escalate.

The Choices Programme offers them strategies to manage the impulses that may lead to those problem behaviours. It also enables boys and girls to find collaborative ways to work through issues and reach a consensus, and in the process, break down gender biases that can so quickly become ingrained. Such approaches often work with those who have not demonstrated risky behaviour but may be susceptible to doing so in the future (Mytton et al., 2006 – https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004606.pub2) .

As a result of our learning, we can now identify individual-level vulnerabilities and needs, enabling individual-level commissioning of specialist services to address those needs. Having this data supports conversations with professionals much earlier in the preventative cycle with the potential to reduce caseload, downstream cost and ultimately the incidents of harm that young people experience. The benefit of building from this already established local initiative is that it allows us to be highly targeted about how we tackle the local nuances and how, in this case, that appears to drive problematic behaviours linked to gender issues.

What have we learned so far?

As we know from the existing programme, establishing and understanding their own identity is critical for young people because it helps them become more conscious of what drives their own choices. A significant part of this lies in understanding how external influences and even the satisfaction of their own basic needs can materially impact or undermine those choices. Our latest research is beginning to indicate that another factor, the multiplicity of contexts (home, the street, school, etc.), is significant in the lives of Chalvey’s youth. This phenomenon can compound vulnerability, amplifying the pressure of influence that young people feel, open with stark contradictions between prevailing social norms operating in each context. Understanding the impact of these multiple contexts and young people’s desire to find a sense of belonging within each will be critical to the next stage of the process. Here, we will explore the resulting behaviours that both boys and girls engage in as we embark on co-design workshops to further shape the response.