A peer education scheme designed to make young people understand the dangers of knife crime is proving successful.
e2 Training, based in Beaumont Leys, has run the scheme thanks to funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), in liaison with Leicestershire Police since November last year.
It is working with a range of young people to help change their behaviour and attitude towards carrying knives.
Youngsters and their families can refer themselves to the scheme if they have concerns, as well as statutory agencies including social or family services.
Among those who have benefited from it is eight-year-old Matthew who had started carrying kitchen knives as a form of protection.
Matthew’s mum said: “He would take a butter knife from the kitchen drawer and hide it somewhere or put it in his bag. He’d had a fight with another boy and his response was to try and protect himself.
“When I heard about the scheme I thought it could be really good but I didn’t really know what to expect. I was so worried about where his actions could lead that I agreed to let him go.
“Everyone was very friendly. He was able to talk about how he felt and why in a relaxed, non-judgemental environment where he was listened to. It helped him reconsider what he was doing and it’s had a positive effect.
“Matthew’s been given techniques on how to control his anxiety or any feelings of anger and I can see a real change in him. He’s much more in control of his actions and far happier. He no longer hides knives away for protection.
“It’s been brilliant for him. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of e2 because the path he was going down wasn’t good. The relationships he’s developed through the scheme have been amazing and I can now see how his self-esteem has gone up.”
The youngster added: “I like going to e2 because it makes me less angry. I used to get angry at other people, but now I do my breathing techniques that I’ve been taught. I know now that knives hurt people and you will go to prison if you carry one.”
e2 Training has eight peer educators who are specifically trained to talk to young people and discuss their concerns and issues, among them are those who have directly experienced the consequences of knife crime.
Bethany Wallace, peer educator coordinator at e2 said: “We talk through an individual’s actions. Often they haven’t given them any thought before and it’s only when they do that they can start to make a change.
“We do this in a mixture of ways. There are group sessions and one-to-one, which in Matthew’s case, has proved to be extremely helpful. It enabled us to develop a real rapport with him and it’s proved hugely beneficial because everyone can see the change that’s taken place.
“Sometimes youngsters start to carry knives because of learned behaviour. They’ve seen others around them do it and so they emulate this. Our work aims to break this cycle.”
In addition to this, e2 also runs a regular youth club for seven to 16-year-olds to meet and take part in various activities as well as have their opinions around knives and other forms of criminality challenged through interactive educational resources.
“It’s not about lecturing young people, it’s about getting them to think through the consequences of their actions for themselves and explore the choices they have.”
e2’s work has been so successful, it is now looking for more peer educators, who work on a voluntary basis, to join and continue the good work.
Beth said: “Although we provide training, it’s important that our peer educators are patient and confident in dealing with young people.”
Sergeant Nick Woodrow, knife crime coordinator for Leicestershire Police, said: “The peer education scheme is an important element of our #LivesNotKnives campaign which aims to prevent knife crime before it happens. It’s extremely pleasing to hear how this is benefitting young people and we would encourage anyone who has concerns for someone, such as a family member, to get in touch and talk to e2 about how the scheme could help them.”
Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It’s extremely pleasing to hear of success stories such as this.
The funding was aimed at providing tangible solutions to a growing problem and it’s clear e2’s work is helping to change negative attitudes before they cause serious harm and criminality.”
For information on e2 and details of how to get in touch visit www.e2online.co.uk