Knife crime, gang violence and limited opportunities is the day-to-day reality for many youths growing up in 2019 in Britain.
Floella Benjamin wants to change that paradigm. So the Lib Dem peer opened the doors of the House of Lords to three case workers from St Giles Trust – a charity helping disadvantaged people from all backgrounds and ethnicities in communities across Britain.
For over an hour, Yvonne Christie, Precious Tamuno and Damion Roberts told Baroness Benjamin how they provide the intervention that is crucial to keep kids away from gangs and on to brighter future that would otherwise be out of reach.
Here is the beginning of that hard-hitting chat on the state of society and gang violence for the kids and teenagers today.
Floella Benjamin: How do we get the message across that unless you find a mentor you will end up in the criminal justice system?
Precious Tamuno: I think the criminal justice system is unfair – it sees them as just another black person, as just another statistic. But at St Giles we really dig deep to understand why young people do what they do. From experience, when I hit the age of 21 my mindset started to change because I was connected with a mentor who became a great father figure and showed me what life can offer. That man was Lord Michael Hastings CBE. That’s how I was able to grow and see things from a different perspective. I went on to start a digital marketing company and various other projects.
Damion Roberts: I don’t think anyone can put a finger on when you feel like that. For my generation it was friendship and loyalty that made me think differently. Because if I’m part of this then why am I the one sitting in prison? People didn’t really care – there was always someone to step in my shoes.
FB: You were just a number?
PT: At times I was with friends, driving, and I knew there were drugs in the car. I was very conscious and would think twice about going places if I knew there was a risk of getting caught. But young people now would stab people to death in broad daylight and think nothing of it. Some of them even love it.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
FB: To them that is excitement?
Yvonne Christie: They know that they are not going to go to prison before 16. So they play on it until then. They are going to go to quite a soft place where they know people. They’re not scared of it.
Read the rest of the conversation about knife crime and the St Giles Trust hopes for the future in the Big Issue, available from your local vendor until Sunday.