Hackney’s gang unit should work with NHS mental health trust to support youngsters, say councillors

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s pioneering gang unit should strike up a partnership with the NHS mental health trust to support the youngsters it works with, councillors say.

The Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU) is made up of police and probation officers as well as the council's youth services team and voluntary agencies. It was the first of its kind in the country when it launched in 2011.

Members of the council's Living in Hackney Scrutiny Committee made the recommendation in a report based on the rise in serious violence, which also suggested changing the name to remove the word gang.

They praised the IGU for its work helping to drive down certain crimes. But they say mental health problems are common among the young people it works with and have called for a mental health element to be created.

In its list of recommendations, the committee said: "We ask that the council seeks to explore with the East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) the feasibility of their becoming a partner agency of the IGU, and for them to provide a dedicated mental health specialist resource."

They referenced a pilot led by ELFT delivering support in people's homes and in the community, saying it could be the way forward for the IGU and have called for an assessment to be made.

They wrote: "A significant share of the cohort is made up of black boys and young men. Evidence shows that tailored approaches can provide more effective pathways to mental health care for this community group, in cases where it is needed. This is due to cultural and structural barriers which can make traditional routes less accessible.

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"The pilot was found to better enable young black men with mental health needs, to engage, compared to traditional primary care routes."

The House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee in July published a report calling for the government to introduce a national "Youth Service Guarantee", with a "substantial increase in services and funding".

"It should include enhanced provision in areas with higher-than-average risk factors linked to serious youth violence, such as under-25 knife crime and school exclusion," the report said. "It must also be coupled with proper mental health provision for young people, informed by an understanding of the impact of trauma and other adverse childhood experiences.

Councillors also highlighted the "major issue" for the IGU of finding settled accommodation for people being released from prison.

While acknowledging it is an issue facing everyone due to the housing crisis, they said they would look into the housing support for ex-offenders during an ongoing review of Hackney's lettings policy.

The recommendations will be discussed by the council's cabinet at a future meeting.