Wed 7 Nov 18
Essex researchers, supported by the Catalyst project, have analysed the challenges faced by Colchester's fast growing population of children and young people.
The report Young Colchester: Life Chances, Assets and Anti-Social Behaviour is being launched by the University, Colchester Borough Council, the Safer Colchester Partnership and the Essex Youth Service at the Townhouse on Wednesday 8 November.
The research was supported by the Catalyst project, a local partnership funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England that brings academics and local authorities together to improve community services.
The report highlights that Colchester is one of Britain's fastest growing towns and has one of the region's largest concentrations of young people. It calls for Colchester leaders to develop a new strategy to meet their changing needs and to boost the life chances of those among them at risk of being left behind.
The report identifies some worrying trends. Fifteen per cent of Colchester's children live in low-income families, while and twenty per cent of local children attend schools rated less than good. Further, Essex County Council data used in the report indicates an increase in school exclusions from the town's secondary schools over the last three years.
Carlene Cornish, one of the report's co-authors, said: "Taken together, these trends are likely to add to the risk of more young people becoming 'NEET', or 'not in education, employment or training'."
The report also points to an increase in the number of young people reporting their experiences as victims of crime.
Another co-author, Professor Pamela Cox, said: "People might be surprised to learn that local youth crime has been falling in recent years but that local youth victimization seems to be increasing. The Essex Safeguarding Children Board recently reported that violent offences against those aged under 18 have increased by one third since 2014-15. The needs of young victims often go unmet. It's important that we all keep working to reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour but equally important that we recognize that many young people are themselves victims of crime and develop ways of tackling that."
The report encourages local leaders to explore new ways of involving young people in the town's development. It recommends that they work with young people to identify and build up young community assets such as shared spaces, networks and events for young people. Professor Cox said: "At first glance, Colchester seems to offer a lot of leisure facilities for teenagers but when you look more closely you see that much of that offering is geared towards younger children or towards those who can pay an entry fee or joining fee."
Pam Donnelly, Chair of the Safer Colchester Partnership, said: "We hope to use the launch of today's report to start a discussion with our partners around a new approach to Young Colchester that focuses on reducing anti-social behaviour - an ongoing concern for many local residents - and which will lead to durable solutions to the complex changing needs of our young people."
Cllr Tina Bourne, Colchester Borough Council's Cabinet member for Housing & Communities, added: "Engaging with young people in the community is vital if we are to tackle the issues they face and improve their overall life-chances.
"That is why the council was so keen to part-fund vital elements of the detached youth work project, through its Startwell programme, and to work closely with Essex Youth Services to assist in the development of interventions to reduce antisocial behaviour and improve local opportunities for marginalized young people.
"That work and this report represent important steps in achieving those outcomes."