A Labour government would launch a £100 million youth programme to tackle knife crime, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The new plan, an echo of New Labour’s SureStart childcare scheme, would see a nationwide targeted programme aimed at identifying and supporting young people at risk of being drawn into violent crime.
Alongside promises of better support, Labour is also promising “real consequences” for knife crime with an end to “empty warnings and apology letters” for those guilty of knife possession.
Set to be unveiled during the latest stop on Sir Keir’s campaigning “missions tour” of the UK, the policy aims to better co-ordinate local services in an effort to bring down levels of knife crime.
Sir Keir said that 14 years of Tory government had left children feeling scared on the streets.
He told reporters: “I’ve obviously worked with a lot of school kids in Camden, who do feel scared.
“I spoke to teenage girls in Stoke who told me that they feel scared going into the high street, even during daylight. I was really shocked because normally the readout when we have these meetings is older people understandably saying ‘I’m worried about going out’, but to have teenage girls saying they are worried about going out in their own high street was really shocking.”
He added: “I am very worried about young people, and they ought to be able to walk the streets feeling safe. I know it sounds obvious. But it is basic, it’s really important.
“And after 14 years of this Government, we do not have that level of confidence in our young people feeling safe that we ought to have.”
Labour said the interventionist Young Futures plan has been informed by Sir Keir’s time as director of public prosecutions.
Set to draw on £100 million a year, the party said it would include a network of hubs for young people with youth workers placed in A&E units, custody centres and communities.
Mentors will also be placed in pupil referral units, with funding for the plan coming from the commitment to charge 20% VAT on private school fees, as well as from recouping the full cost of gun licensing and promised public sector reforms.
The support measures will be accompanied by a promise of tougher sanctions for those carrying knives, with every offender required to be referred to a youth offending team and receive a mandatory and “bespoke” action plan to prevent re-offending.
Tougher guidance would also be introduced to ensure serious penalties, including curfews or tagging, are considered where appropriate.
Sir Keir said: “We will give young people real support to achieve their potential and stay on track, but flout that chance and they’ll feel the full force of the law.”
It comes as the party said it would oversee a “total crackdown” on the availability of knives on British streets, promising a comprehensive ban that would also target the sale of dangerous knives online including “Rambo” knives, swords and machetes.
The party has hit out at the delay in ministers legislating to ban zombie-style knives, after it was promised last August.
Conservative policing minister Chris Philp said: “This is just another reheated pledge from the Labour Party using money they have already spent seven times.
“They cannot say what their plan actually is. Because just like their reckless £28 billion-a-year spending spree they don’t have a plan – meaning higher taxes for the British people.”