Bright Minds Big Futures Knife Crime Project: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Bright Minds, Big Futures (BMBF) is a youth-led movement working together with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to make the borough a great place to grow up.


Background

The Knife Crime project run by Bright Minds, Big Futures (BMBF) took place in Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England. BMBF is a youth-led movement working together with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to make the borough a great place to grow up. BMBF is supported by the council, with staffing support from the Community Engagement Team who also cover costs for venues individual expenses, projects and merchandise. However, it is independently constituted and also raises its own money for campaigns and projects through fundraising events and grant applications.

The Knife Crime project was initiated by BMBF to raise awareness in policy makers of the impact of the fear of knife crime and other serious crimes on young people and make policy makers aware of these concerns.

Through the project, the young people from BMBF worked with, full council, the Cleveland police and crime commissioner (PCC), the chief constable, the cabinet member for community safety and the council's community protection service manager.

Engagement of young people

Any young person aged 11-19 years-old (or 25 with additional needs) that lives in Stockton-on-Tees can become part of BMBF. Membership is advertised through their webpage, and a variety of social media platforms managed by young people, including Tik Tok, Facebook and Instagram, and within schools. Members come from all sections of the population including refugees, asylum seekers, young people with additional needs and disabilities and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Young people are motivated to join BMBF for different reasons. BMBF runs several projects on different topics including music, the arts, and the environment. Members can choose their level of involvement; they are not expected to be involved in all BMBF projects. Instead, members of BMBF stay informed about opportunities and connect to other members by joining the BMBF Slack channel, a messaging app that allows them to talk in groups and share files. Members choose when they wish to take part in an upcoming event or project, and the channel currently has 65 members.

BMBF is co-ordinated by nine young people (‘the Big Committee’) who drive the activities of BMBF. ‘The Big Committee’ created an action plan (Big Plan) which identified Knife Crime as a priority for young people. An important aspect of BMBF is that the group has control over its own finances. This gives considerable autonomy to the young people when action plans are developed.

Activities

The activities developed for The Knife Crime project were:

  • A Community Safety Question Time event which brought young people together with policy makers to discuss the issue of knife crime. This included a panel made up of the police and crime commissioner, the chief constable, the cabinet member for community safety and community protection service manager.
  • Designing ‘BMBF Approved,’ a tool to rate young people’s welcome and accessibility in services and organisations. This was then used to assess police stations hosting a knife amnesty.
  • BMBF members attended a Cleveland PCC community event to speak about the importance of young people’s voice being in conversations.
  • Meeting with the Cleveland PCC and Youth Crime Commission to discuss the impact of knife crime and fear of knife crime on young people.
  • Approaching the Leader of the Council to request a motion be raised at full council. This was granted and BMBF members drafted a motion on raising awareness of knife crime and its impact on communities, which was successful passed at full council.

All of these BMBF activities were facilitated by the council’s Community Engagement Team, who support, guide, and advise the young people to develop and implement their plans. They promote and recruit to BMBF and give practical support such as providing merchandise, venues, and transport. The team enables BMBF access to key decision makers across the council, and other services such as the police, schools, colleges, and the voluntary sector.

Key messages

A key strength of this work is that is youth led, and young people identify actions and topics they wish to focus on and bring it to the council, as well as other stakeholders. This is enabled by the independence the BMBF project has, compared to a project run exclusively by the council. Young people manage their own social media accounts and raise their own money, this increases their autonomy.

This allows young people to influence policy issues that may not be current council priorities. In the case of The Knife Crime project this was not a policy area that decision makers prioritised or even recognised, as crime and knife crime is relatively low in the area. In some cases, this relies on a commitment from senior policy makers and councillors to give young people the time to sit down and have conversations about quite sensitive subjects.

As a result of the success of the project, the council has a greater awareness of young people’s views and will make sure BMBF have their voice heard and are involved in planning services. BMBF is now built into community engagement events, and it is embedded into council business. Young people have a route to raise issues that the council policy makers may not have originally seen as a priority and provide full updates to cabinet once a year.

Councillor Steve Nelson said “Without question Bright Minds Big Futures is one of the best examples of partnership working in the borough… collectively the cabinet is inspired and humbled by the breadth and depth of their achievements.

As Cabinet Member for Community Safety, I was proud and honoured to propose the knife crime motion on behalf of BMBF… I am sure BMBF’s input has helped to make the borough a safer place for all its residents.”

Further information

Local Authority: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Type of Council: Unitary

Political control: No overall control, Labour minority (as of March 2022)

Target group: 11 - 19 years-old (or up to 25 with additional needs)

Area of policy making:  Knife crime

Further details: Bright Minds Big Futures Facebook Group and BMBF webpage

Contact:

Jane Webb, Community Engagement Manager, Community Engagement Team, jane.webb@stockton.gov.uk 

Sophie Haste, Community Engagement Officer, Community Engagement Team sophie.haste@stockton.gov.uk