Chief Executive's blog: May

Rosemary Macdonald reports back on a series of conversations about knife crime

OVER The past year there has been an increasing number of headlines about knife crime which has prompted questions from donors I know.

They want to hear what the Wiltshire Community Foundation knows about this worrying trend and, more importantly, what we are doing about it. It isn’t an area we have a great deal of expertise in and you may even think it is just an issue for the big cities. It isn’t.

My investigation started with our network of partners to try and get a feel for the scale and severity of the problem. I can now see that it is an emerging conundrum - it is not large in scale in Wiltshire and Swindon but because of it a small number of people are having a great impact on some of our communities.

I was pleased to see the issue of young people and knives has the full attention of experts at Wiltshire Police, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council and many other agencies.

I have spoken to the chief constable, I also spent time with David Haley, the head of children’s services and Jane Griffiths, head of early years services at Swindon Borough Council and also attended a multi-agency meeting organised by Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Council in Trowbridge.

All of the meetings were eye-opening and informative.  All the partners describe the issue as a really complex subject, and we have to separate knife crime from carrying knives. When we speak of knife crime we think about stabbings on the streets and in Wiltshire and Swindon that number is really low. In fact, it has decreased by 14 per cent in the last year.

But carrying knives is a growing issue, with children as young as 12 carrying them for their own protection or because they are linked to drugs in some way.

It was heartening to see both councils and the police not looking at this solely as a policing matter but as a public health issue because these young people are vulnerable and finding a solution is not going to be easy or quick.  It is going to need the help of lots of different agencies, as well as that of the voluntary sector.

I was impressed by the willingness of all these stakeholders and the real duty of care they felt towards these young people. They didn’t demonise them because they see them as much of a victim because of those above them pulling the strings.

It was interesting to hear that Swindon is considered to be at the point with knife crime that London was ten years ago, which means we are at a point where we could do something to turn this around and to prevent young people from ending up in the criminal justice system and impacting on victims everywhere.

Now we need to work with our partners and explore our contacts for solutions that have worked outside of the county. We are only a small part of the puzzle but if we need to seek funding for specific areas of a plan to deal with this issue, it is something we will take very seriously.

If this issue concerns you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

THERE is some great news for Swindon with the launch of our matched fund called Give Swindon.

We have some match funding available for donors who wish to put money into making grants to the town’s voluntary sector.

This comes about because of the increasing number of voluntary groups in the area. We have found that despite awarding £300,000 a year in grants in Swindon, the ask is getting bigger more than double the amount we have to give away in the town.

It is part of our role to actively seek funding for areas that need it and we have a really good track record of stepping up to this kind of challenge.

We want everyone to know how wonderful the charity sector in Swindon is and we want to help resource it properly. Full details of our Give Swindon fund will be out soon so keep an eye on our web site and social media.

 

WHAT'S the best way to have a good idea? My best ones come when I’m mowing the lawn, walking the dog or something that isn’t sitting at my desk.

We applied this principle to our development team and had an awayday – at my house.

We gave them a change of scenery and an absence of distractions for them to come up with new ideas and enthusiasm for the year ahead.

I was (not really!) taken aback by their competitiveness when having to come up with as many ideas as they could of our achievements over the past year. You can’t imagine the massive amount of cheating that went on just to win a box of chocolates.

But the result was a flip chart full of Post-Its extolling our successes over the past 12 months. Looking at the good things your organisation achieved through lots of peoples’ eyes means that you see far more than you do by looking through just your own.

The weather was good enough to share a bowl of soup for lunch in the garden. I believe there is no better way of getting to know your fellow man than breaking bread together.