How do we effectively support vulnerable young people at risk of serious violent crime? In conversation with Jon Yates

Alicia Edmund, Senior Communications and Policy Officer
Wednesday 1st July 2020

In September 2019, Jon Yates was first introduced to Leap when he was interviewed by four Leap graduates for the Executive Director position." data-share-imageurl="">


In September 2019, Jon Yates was first introduced to Leap when he was interviewed by four Leap graduates for the Executive Director position.


Last month, I interviewed Jon to find out how he is settling into the role seven months on and to hear how the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) is supporting community projects during lockdown. From our conversation I left hopeful that the YEF has the needs of young people central to its mission and look forward to seeing how the organisation evolves in the coming years.


Below, I share three strong themes discussed from our 30-minute video call.


1.Making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people involves greater collaboration

In our conversation, I was encouraged to hear in several of Jon’s responses references to conversations he had had with young people in his role. At Leap, we believe listening to young people with lived experience can positively shift thinking and also inform creative thinking when designing programmes and/or initiatives.

Jon shared how the young people he had spoken with had an overwhelming sense that violence was a part of life and feeling safe was an unrealistic and hopeless endeavour. Listening to Jon relay these stories, it became clear that he felt his role and the role of the YEF was to find solutions and ways to develop networks between youth workers, funders, teachers and police, so that power, knowledge and ideas come together to better support vulnerable young people at risk of violent crime.


The distinct part we [the Youth Endowment Fund] play is to fund programmes and ideas that can make a difference and secondly to find out which interventions work best, spread the good work and to build coalitions and relationships with other organisations, so that there is a real push for change. We will fail ultimately, if we spend the money, write the reports and nothing actually changes.

 Jon Yates, Executive Director for the Youth Endowment Fund


2.Supporting programmes and initiatives that maintain relationships with vulnerable young people during lockdown is the YEF’s main priority

Coronavirus is not one crisis; it is a succession of many crises all happening at once. One of the impacts of the crisis is its impact on vulnerable young people who in many cases have lost access to places they feel safe.

 Jon Yates

Reaching young people at risk of violent crime has always been a challenge for many community programmes and adult professionals committed to this work. Covid-19 and lockdown measures have complicated this further.

In response the YEF established a £6.5 million Covid-19 grant to support different interventions and community programmes to remain engaged and connected to young people - aged 10 to 14 during the lockdown. This grant is to achieve three objectives:

  1. To help young people
  2. To sustain organisations
  3. To learn as quickly as possible, how to reach young people whilst lockdown measures are in place

I asked Jon what interventions he believed best supported young people during lockdown. He replied that:

  • Online and remote work has a place and is important in maintaining existing relationships with young people
  • Detached youth work may prove more crucial during this time, especially whilst the majority of young people are out of education and home isn’t the safest place for young people
  • The youth and education sector need to acknowledge that share a common goal (the welfare and wellbeing of a young person) and so should consider the possibility of youth work provision being embedded within a school.
  • the police and youth sector need to consider how their relationship could work.

On reflection, I would agree with these four points. Different adults and professionals play an integral role in the protection and wellbeing of young people. In the context of protecting young people from violent and destructive behaviour, the support of parents, teachers, youth professionals and even the police are essential to achieving this. From our experience, we know that young people feel safer and are more likely to make choices that lead away from criminality and destructive behaviour when trusted relationships with adults exist in their lives.


3.There will be opportunities for the lived experience of young people to inform the YEF’s strategic direction

In the next few weeks, the YEF will be outlining thoughts on its strategic direction and will invite partners and adult professionals to feed into which areas - school exclusion, mentoring schemes of family intervention – should be given priority.

As an organisation we are delighted to hear that a young advisory board will be established, where the lived experience and expertise of young people can shape the commissioning of service provision and programme design.  At Leap, we have found in the last 18-months that involving young people in the design, discussion and delivery of a project puts us in a better position to support young people in the areas they need the most support.

We look forward to the publication of the strategy and will work with our young ambassadors to propose ideas on how the advisory board can be established and its terms of reference throughout the year.



For the past four years, influencing the government’s Serious Violence Strategy has been one of our policy priorities.  Through the our relationships with local government and in alliance with other youth organisations we have sought to inform the government’s understanding of young people’s lived experience, and fears, as well as proposing solutions to addressing rising violent crime across the UK.

As a society, the default thinking is to further invest in punitive measures such as increasing prison sentencing, creating more prison places and increasing funding for the police as an adequate response to reducing violent crime in communities. It is our belief that increased investment in sustainable community-based programmes where the focus is on early prevention rather than punishment is the right way to support vulnerable young people at risk of violent crime.

Click to read our submission ahead of the 2019 spending review: Spending Review Submission 2020 Onwards.pdf

To learn more about our policy influencing work, please email Alicia (Senior Communications and Policy Officer) on

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