Gang involvement seriously damages young lives. We are researching the impact of a radical new approach to engaging young people involved in gang-related activity.

New models of working with gangs

We are working with MAC-UK, a small grass-roots charity in North London that delivers mental health interventions to young people involved in antisocial and / or gang-related activity. MAC-UK has developed an innovative, evidence-based model called Integrate© that is extremely effective in reaching out to these excluded young people. It is a radical approach taking what we know works in mental health and applying it in new ways.

Integrate is now being piloted by multi-agency teams on four sites across London. The aims of the Integrate model are reducing in serious youth violence and re-offending, getting young people engaged in training, education and / or employment or getting them back into existing services.

We are researching the impact of these interventions, and their effects on the wider community and local residents. We will also look at whether local services are being redesigned to make them more accessible to some of the UK's most deprived young people - those who may need support but find it difficult to ask for help.

We hope to publish some early findings later in 2015.

Girls in gangs

A small minority of young people is involved in gangs in the UK but they are the subject of considerable public and political concern. But there is limited information on the scale and pattern of risk factors experienced by young women associated with gangs in the UK.

Our report is the result of a comprehensive literature review on girls involved in gangs and an analysis of data collected by health screening initiatives in England for more than 8,000 young people at the point of arrest as part of our Youth Justice Liaison and Diversion work.

On average, young women involved with gangs had more than double the number of vulnerabilities than the other girls who were screened after arrest. The results of the screening shows clear evidence of the psychological vulnerability of gang involved young women. Just over a quarter were identified as having a suspected mental health problem and 30% were identified as self-harming or at risk of suicide.

What you can do - policy

The Government should ensure that the statutory duty on the Secretary of State to reduce local health inequalities translates into meaningful and measurable local action.

NHS England should commission point of arrest liaison and diversion services which are gender-sensitive and recognise the deleterious impact of gang membership on children’s health and social outcomes.

The Youth Justice Board and the Home Office Violence Prevention Unit should continue and extend work to produce tools, training materials and initiatives for youth services and YOTs on gender-specific practice.

YOTs and probation services should work in close partnership with voluntary sector services working with gangs to create engaging and safe spaces and services for highly vulnerable young women.

What you can do - commissioning

All local authorities with responsibility for conducting Joint Strategic Needs Assessments should identify the number of young people involved in gang activity or who are at risk of it and develop multi-agency strategies to address these risks.

Health, social care, education and justice commissioners should all recognise gang membership as a marker for particularly pervasive negative outcomes for young people and communities and take collective action to gather data on prevalence, prevent risk and support those who are involved to exit safely.

Local Safeguarding Boards should actively monitor and review local prevalence information on gang activity and membership.

What you can do - in practice

All services in regular contact with young people and families should recognise the toxic and undermining impact of both multiple risk factors and prolonged exposure to risk for children’s healthy development.

All services in contact with young people should routinely talk to them about whether and how they are affected by gang activity in their communities.