Sheffield's new violence reduction scheme will target people involved in 'violent and unsafe lifestyles' while they are in hospital

Sheffield is to become one of the first places in the UK to introduce a programme which aims to help people steer clear of violent lifestyles – by forging a close connection with them while they are in hospital.

Tuesday, 13th August 2019, 7:16 pm
Angela Harris, Nurse Director for Acute and Emergency Medicine, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals hopes to recruit four ‘navigators’ who will attempt to reach out to people who are in hospital ‘as a consequence of violent and unsafe lifestyles’, as part of a violence reduction programme.

A spokesman for the STH NHS Foundation Trust said: “This could be people who have been involved in knife crime or other violent crime, gangs, domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse, for example.

“The navigators will approach people at the reachable moment when they are in hospital, and possibly more open to re-evaluating their lifestyle and circumstances.”

The 'navigators' will be predominantly based at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital

The navigator scheme was first established in Glasgow in 2015 in a bid to stop the revolving door of violent injuries, and Sheffield is set to become one of the first cities in the country to recruit for the role.

This comes after the Home Office announced it would give South Yorkshire Police an additional £1.6million to fund a violence reduction unit (VRU), similar to the one set up in Glasgow following a rise in crime there.

In a statement announcing the cash boost, the Home Office said the unit would ‘take a public health approach to address the underlying causes of violent crime’.

Following the announcement, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said: “The £1.6m funding allows us to develop further a South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

This allows me, as Police and Crime Commissioner, to bring together a range of partners: police, youth offending teams, clinical commissioning groups, Public Health, local authorities, education groups and the voluntary sector. Together we will identify and support projects that will stop people, especially young people, getting involved in crime in the first place or enable them to break with crime if they are already offending.”

Angela Harris, the Nurse Director for Acute and Emergency Medicine at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, is originally from Glasgow and was aware of the ‘navigator’ scheme in place there.

She said: “When I worked in London I encountered victims of violent crime, and when I came to Sheffield I could see that knife crime and violence was becoming a problem here like many other cities.

“I knew about the scheme in Glasgow, and with together with Nurse Consultant Lead Kirsten Clinton we went up there to see how it works, and for me it is the right thing to do.

“The navigators can offer support and signpost people to other services that could help them.

“As a major organisation within the city employing over 17,000 staff and caring for almost two million patients we feel a responsibility to play our part in making our city as safe as possible.

“By working with the police and other partners on schemes like this I am confident we can begin to make a difference.

“We are currently advertising the roles and want candidates from all parts of the community, with varied life experience, who can make that connection with people as effectively as possible.

“We need people who can understand and empathise with people, through their own personal or professional experience.

“It is about reaching out to people at a moment when they might be open to help.”

The navigators will be predominantly based at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, and will be expected to provide support and empathy to those they hope to help.

They will also seek to provide a link to other specialist support services that can potentially help people to break the cycle of violence and change their lives for the better.

The hospital will work closely with partners including South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield City Council to deliver the scheme, which is also financially supported by the Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

David Reynolds, Executive Director of Sheffield Hospitals Charity, said: “I am delighted that the Charity has been involved in the development and funding of this important project for our city.”

Maxine Stavrianakos, Head of Neighbourhood Intervention and Tenant Support at Sheffield City Council, said: “We work with partners across the city on a number of projects to improve community safety and support people to move away from violent behaviour to a healthier more productive way of life.

“These new Navigator roles, based within our hospitals, will help us identify individuals who need this type of support and reach out to them in an environment where they will both feel safe.

“We expect this personalised approach will help more people access the right support for their individual circumstances, which will make it easier for them to adopt positive changes in their lives.”

Dr Billings has raised concerns that the money released by the Home Office for the VRU is for the eight months to March 2020.

He said: “If the VRU is to have sustainable success it must be funded over a number of years. The Scottish VRU, on which this is based, has a ten year strategy funded by the Scottish government. We look, therefore, for this

funding to be continued in the government's Comprehensive Spending Review when this is announced in the autumn.”

Violent crime has been a cause for concern for many in our city, after there were eight fatal stabbings last year.

21-year-old Lewis Bagshaw became the first person this year to lose his life to knife crime on July 21, following an attack carried out in Piper Crescent, Southey.

According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, there were a total of 1,032 knife and sharp instrument offences recorded by South Yorkshire Police between April 2018 and March 2019.

This compares with 1,008 between April 2017 and March 2018; 882 between April 2016 and March 2017; 615 between April 2015 and March 2016; 546 between April 2014 and March 2015 and 549 between April 2013 and March 2014.

This means that the number of recorded knife and sharp instrument offences in the county has increased by 187 per cent, between March 2014 and March 2019.

Nationally, there was a rise of 184 per cent rise in the number of recorded knife and sharp instrument offences during the same period.

Last October, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) announced it was launching a new ‘strategy’ to tackle knife crime across the city, through which it would work collaboratively with other agencies including Sheffield City Council.

In its Knife Crime Strategy 2018-2021 document, the Force said: “Knife crime often affects those most vulnerable in our community. In Sheffield many families have been bereaved; many more have seen their loved ones severely injured.

“We know we speak for the overwhelming majority in this city when we say this is absolutely unacceptable. It has to stop.

“Protecting those most in need, must be a priority for us all.”

The force has subsequently been granted greater policing powers in its fight against knife crime.

In March this year, the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that SYP would be one of seven police forces across the country to be given greater stop-and-search powers.

The new powers have relaxed the rules on when an officer can search someone, and also allow lower-ranked officers to conduct a search.

It also means officers are permitted to stop and search anyone in a designated area for a limited time if serious violence is anticipated.

They can stop and search people or vehicles, irrespective of whether they have reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find offensive weapons or dangerous items.

SYP and Dr Billings have been approached for comment on the navigator scheme.