Labour leader Keir Starmer visits Leeds United Foundation project to tackle violent crime among young people
Labour leader Keir Starmer has vowed to return to see first-hand the work being done between Leeds United and young people in the city who maybe on the edge of entering into a life of crime.
Mr Starmer was at Elland Road this morning to meet with coaches and representatives from the club’s official charity, the Leeds United Foundation who are involved with the club's Positive Choices programme.
It was started during the 2019/20 season as an educational event aimed at secondary schools to engage with hard-to-reach children, with one of the main aims to help reduce violent crime and knife crime.
Mr Starmer said: "It is absolutely fantastic and I pay tribute to all of those involved, many of whom have been through trauma as a victim and on the wrong side of the law talking to young people and I have been inspired by what they do. If what they do saves a young person from a life of crime, that benefits the young person and very many victims - the courage it takes to break down barriers and do the work that they are doing.
"What we have seen over the last few years are figures going in the wrong direction. Crime has gone up, particularly violent crime, but people being brought to justice has gone down."
The Positive Choices scheme usually goes into schools and works with around 1000 youngsters per year with up to 60 in one single session.
They cover serious topics such as the dangers of knife crime, gang affiliation, negative relationships and child criminal exploitation - and that there is another way and that there are people out there who can support them.
Positive Choices has managed to stay in touch with young people during the lockdown restrictions over the past year by holding virtual sessions, making welfare calls and setting activities such as skills practice to writing letters to friends or relatives who are isolating.
Mr Starmer was accompanied on his visit by Tracey Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen and Labour candidate for the 2021 West Yorkshire mayoral election. The pair also met with Sarah Lloyd - a mother whose17-year-old son was knifed to death in their own street in Harehills in 2013.
"He was going to the local cafe to buy a breakfast and never came home", she said.
Ms Lloyd said Keiron had challenging behavior, was excluded from school at the age of seven and got in with the wrong crowd, was in the youth offending system by the time he was 12 but "it got worse".
She said: "It (projects like Positive Changes) did not exist when he was 12. This programme could have maybe saved his life, you never know. I don't live in the what ifs - but it could have made a difference."
Mr Starmer added: "It is about reducing crime but making better lives and if I had been through that, I don't think I could have done that."
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