Almost 100 medical professionals have signed up to a training programme to help hospital staff in Bedfordshire spot the signs a child is being exploited.
The Neon project is a joint venture between the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Gangsline.
The course aims to give staff at both Bedford and the Luton & Dunstable hospitals the skills and confidence they need to be a beacon of hope for vulnerable young people caught up in street violence – hence the phrase ‘neon’.
The VERU co-designed the training alongside Sheldon Thomas, founder of the charity Gangsline, who works for the VERU’s youth intervention specialist (YIS) team.
The programme also benefitted from the input of Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire, the national policing lead for serious youth violence, and David Kirby, the deputy medical director of the NHS trust in Bedfordshire.
Some 96 medical professionals signed up to take the course within a few days of it being released, with funding for staff to take the course all provided by the VERU. Those signed up so far include A&E doctors, paediatricians and nurses.
Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, said:
“We are making use of every channel available to reach those most at risk of criminal exploitation, and I am delighted to see this investment in helping our doctors and nurses to be a part of the solution to tackling gang violence.
“It is not always easy to spot the signs of exploitation – even for those being groomed or professionals.
“Only through a multi-agency effort such as this, can we sustain progress made in safeguarding the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The VERU leads the multi-agency response to serious youth violence in Bedfordshire, treating it like a public health issue than can be prevented from happening in the first place. Kimberley Lamb, head of the VERU, said:
“Extensive research and preparation has gone into this programme to ensure it gives our brilliant Bedfordshire doctors and nurses the tools they need to recognise and respond to the exploitation of young people caught up in violence.”
Sheldon Thomas, who has spoken openly about his life as a former gang member, said:
“The training session is unique in combining the experience and expertise of former gang members with the specialist knowledge of sociologists of urban disorder and youth offending.”
For more information about the VERU visit bedsveru.org.