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Reports find Manchester’s violent crime won’t be solved without listening to young people


Our first report launched Summer 2020 finds that young people across the city feel their knowledge is too often missing in debates on how to tackle the rise in knife crime.


The project, coordinated by local working-class youth charity RECLAIM, asked young people across the city what they want and need to feel safe. With partner organisations it brought them together with professionals working on this issue to explore what would help Manchester pioneer a braver approach.


Our follow-up report published Summer 2022 by us and Collective Discovery, Bridging the Empathy Gap, explores how to bridge the gap between professionals and young people and the obstacles to strengthening listening practice and empathy.  


The report is based on a review of existing research and practice and a series of discussions with young people and professionals. We hope you find it interesting - we found that improving individual professionals listening practice could strengthen empathy but there are wider obstacles in the systems that are meant to support young people that undermine a more responsive or co-produced response to the violence that impacts young people.

Key findings

Our first report was the result of numerous workshops and conversations with young people in Manchester in 2019 and 2020 and found:​

  • Manchester’s young people felt media attention and the response to violent crime nationally and locally focused too much on the symptoms rather than underlying causes (see iceberg picture attached).  

  • The young people felt that responses to violent crime were often based on race, class and gender-related stereotypes rather than their lived reality. They mapped four negative spirals (see attached graphics) showing how current policies undermined their aspirations for safety, recognition, hope and support. 

  • The young people felt the following areas especially needed attention:

  1. The high levels of school exclusions.

  2. Low trust in the police due to their experiences of excessive and humiliating use of stop and search, especially on young people of colour, and the use of PCSOs in schools.

  3. The lack of youth services, both in general and especially for those facing issues like grooming or violence at home. 

  4. The lack of routes for people from their backgrounds to get into good jobs in the city (even before the recent economic problems).  

  • Overall, the young people felt there was an understanding and empathy gap between them and those working on this issue that needed to be bridged.  

“Professionals don’t listen to young people. We are the ones on the streets, not them.”

Key recommendations

Both young people and the professionals felt Manchester had a great opportunity to pioneer new approaches. The report concludes that any strategy that aims to tackle serious youth violence will fail if it doesn’t involve the young people it affects. Those working in the police, education, commissioners, funders and policymakers should ensure young people are seen as part of the solution, not the problem, by finding new approaches to bring their perspectives into the debate.

The young people argued that:

  • Several interventions that inadvertently made matters worse for young people (for example, knife awareness campaigns that only serve to increase young people’s fear or having PCSOs in schools), needed to be replaced by positive ones (such as more youth services).

  • Service-providers, commissioners and policymakers need to better reflect the diverse communities in which they work.


  • Young people should have access to de-escalation training so they can help take the temperature out of situations on- and off-line. 

  • Manchester should pioneer the use of initiatives that bring professionals - like the police and teachers - together with young people to unpick why there is an understanding gap between them.

The project was coordinated by RECLAIM and funded by the Manchester Community Safety Partnership, Young Manchester and the Co-op Foundation as part of the Keeping Children and Young People Safe Programme. The young people involved in the discussions were drawn from a wide range of partner organisations working in the youth and play sector in the city.

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