Customer story: Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership

Community Conversations
'screenshot of 'Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership
'screenshot of 'Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership

A public health approach

It’s well-evidenced that the chances of someone committing violence are heavily influenced by a person’s circumstances. With better support in terms of mental health, education and life skills, young people and adults are far less prone to becoming violent offenders.

A Violence Reduction Unit, or VRU, is an initiative that seeks to reduce violence in an area by treating it like more of a public health problem: rather than only using a reactive approach, like locking violent people up in prison, a VRU aims for a preventative approach - like trying to lift kids out of the circumstances that push them towards violence by giving them the support they need.

It brings together professionals from organisations like police departments, mental health and social services, medical staff, and so on. These joined-up services working together are key to the success of these programs.

Merseyside VRU - or, more accurately, VRP, as they renamed it the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership - is one such program. By using evidence and data they aim to prevent serious violence and intervene before it becomes part of a person’s life. Part of their preventative method involves outreach, like education campaigns and community engagement.

Outreach and engagement

Ordinarily Merseyside VRP engage with young people via a variety of methods, both online and face-to-face. With the onset of COVID, however, it was especially important for them to be able to reach people online.

They chose Dialogue as the best platform to engage with Merseyside citizens about violence reduction. It worked for them for a number of reasons:

  • Conversation, not consultation: Merseyside VRP wanted an open, two-way discussion.
  • They didn’t want to put anyone off participating with a daunting formal consultation.
  • Everything’s visible: Merseyside VRP say they ‘heard from young people who feel excluded from decision-making about services and support available to help them.’ With Dialogue, everything’s publicly visible - everyone can see what others have said, as well as replies from the VRP, so participants feel included in the decision.
  • Customisable interface: Dialogue allows site admins to customise their site. Merseyside VRP were able to embed informative videos on how to use the Dialogue and how to stay safe online.

Additionally, Dialogue allows users to set their own username, so contributions can be completely anonymous. This was doubly important: it meant that those who have been perpetrators or victims of violence could share their views and experiences in a secure way without being identified, either by their peers or by the VRP; and those respondents who were underage could safely contribute online.

Using Dialogue enabled Merseyside VRP to reach out to people across the county and provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and ideas for how to make Merseyside safe for everyone.

Dialogue will allow a safe space for Merseyside residents of all ages to voice their concerns, issues and solutions. It provides the VRP with a transparent, engaging way to involve young people in its work. It also means that young people from a large geographical area – all five boroughs – can chat at the same time about the same question.”Susan Cowell, Youth and Community Engagement lead, Merseyside VRP

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