Skip to content
  • Blog
  • 11th Apr 2024

Could summer jobs stop youth violence?

England’s youth violence rates remain unacceptably high. Last year, children were involved in 3,400 knife and offensive weapon incidents and there were 646 hospital admissions of 16-18 years olds for injuries caused by sharp objects. Beyond even these worrying statistics, violence permeates children’s lives – the  Youth Endowment Fund’s annual Children, Violence and Vulnerability report found that more than one in 10 teenage children had been a victim of violence in the past 12 months and almost half reported that violence and the fear of violence affected their day-to-day lives. 

Violence compounds other inequalities – 31% of those using foodbanks reported victimisation and the threat of violence affects young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It’s well established that minority communities suffer a disproportionate impact from crime and violence.

Like our partner the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), the Ending Youth Violence Lab is dedicated to building the evidence on the most effective approaches to preventing youth violence. Summer Youth Employment Programmes (SYEPs) are a promising route to achieving this.

In many American cities, SYEPs offer young people from disadvantaged backgrounds short-term paid employment during the long summer break from school. Some of these programmes have been in existence for decades and operate at a huge scale. Last summer, the New York SYEP, which has been operating since the 1960s, offered placements to 100,000 young people. These programmes offer young people a glimpse into working life, expanding their social networks and aspirations, as well as developing their ‘soft skills’. Many of the programmes include extensive mentoring designed to support the complex needs of some of the participants. 

Though evaluations of these programmes find mixed results in terms of education and future employment outcomes, their value as a diversion from less positive activities during the summer months appears much more certain. The evaluations have found reductions in crime and violence. Most dramatically, in a randomised control trial (the gold standard of evidence), the One Summer Chicago Plus programme found a 43% reduction in violent crime arrests over a 16 month period. In Boston there was a 35% reduction in violent crime in the 17 months after participation. Although evaluations of programmes in Philadelphia and New York found less dramatic results they nevertheless demonstrated small reductions in crime and violence.

Given the evidence from the US on violent youth offending, we believe that it’s high time for this approach to be tried here. So we’re excited that the Ending Youth Violence Lab (EYVL) will be partnering with UK Youth and Inclusive Boards to bring the US SYEP model to the UK. We are currently working together to co-design the ‘Summer Jobs’ programme, which UK Youth will deliver through a network of youth organisations, in England to start with, and which we’ll evaluate at the end of the year.

Philanthropic funding from our founder Stuart Roden has also acted as a catalyst for substantial government backing, with funding for evaluation and development coming from the YEF, in conjunction with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Youth Futures Foundation (YFF).  

This year, the summer jobs programme hopes to offer around 600 young people at risk of becoming involved in violence a paid job for five weeks over the school holidays, in a range of placements that suit their diverse aspirations. Recognising that there may be barriers to young people being able to take up this opportunity, the programme will provide a daily allowance, pre-placement preparation as well as ‘double’ mentorship, by a youth worker during the placement as well as in-job mentor support. The involvement of Inclusive Boards will also help ensure that the programme’s support and job placements are culturally appropriate.

This summer we will see whether it is possible to deliver the programme and whether it fits the needs of young people and employers. If we prove the concept, the programme will grow, offering a similar number of placements next summer but doubling to around 1200 placements in the summer of 2026. In this first year, the programme will be available to young people in specific areas of London, Manchester and the West Midlands, but with the number of areas increasing in year two and again in year three. 

The ultimate goal is to evaluate whether the programme has the similar effect here as in the US, reducing violence and improving education and work outcomes for young people.

The programme is not just a violence reduction intervention but also an exciting opportunity to provide work opportunities to young people who might not otherwise have access to them, as well as some financial resources to households in a precarious situation. By bringing together learning from America as well as insights and experience from a range of expert UK stakeholders, we hope that employers, youth organisations and young people will be able to access the potential opportunities the programme can provide and shape its development for the years ahead.