Ten years on: Violence Reduction Unit on 'aspiring for something better'
Sometimes in Scotland when we consider the complexity of the society we live in and the tremendous challenges we face, it becomes overwhelming. Violence, terrorism, child abuse. It can often seem like we are stuck and only able to respond after the event.
In the face of this organisations and our processes seem feeble. It can be overwhelming for people and indeed professionals.
Violence in Scotland presented as an enduring challenge; as much social as it is criminal: lack of aspiration; families, friends and communities where violence is the norm; worklessness; inequality; lack of basic human attributes that help us get through life - communication, problem solving, team work, empathy. Add to this a dash of alcohol and we had the perfect storm.
When we started the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) over a decade ago our sole goal was to reduce violence – to make it better, not worse. We didn’t set out to be innovative, we set out to aspire for something better.
Over the last ten years thousands of people from communities, charities and public services have worked tirelessly to change Scotland from one of the highest levels of violence in western Europe to the lowest levels of murder in 41 years. It has had prevention at its heart.
Large numbers of young people have been diverted from the criminal justice system, supported by research which showed that when young people encountered the justice system early on, the outcomes were often poor.
Added to this has been a focus on early years; an understanding that the most important commodity in Scotland is not our oil but our children. The Early Years movement in Scotland will ensure that many of our children’s outcomes will be changed for the better.
Engaging those most affected by violence in communities, ordinary people who became part of a desire to change Scotland, has been our abiding memory. Those whose lives have been blighted by drugs, alcohol, violence. Lived experience, became the foundation of much of the work in the VRU. They give of their time selflessly, showing discretionary effort in the hope that their children will have a better life.
There is much to do, our prison population has remained stubbornly high and too many of our children still suffer the worst of outcomes.
We must keep trying - all of us – for we are presented with the opportunity to make some real change, to change the destiny of some of the most excluded in our country and to improve their outcomes and those of their children, and in the process make Scotland better. This is within our grasp.
Karyn McCluskey and John Carnochan co-founded the Violence Reduction Unit, which last month celebrated its tenth anniversary
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