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“Archaic way of doing things” fails boys who drop out of system, says Islington youth worker in attack on ‘tick-boxing’

‘Young people need help on their estate’

31 January, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Forensic examiners at the site where Nedim Bilgin, 17, was stabbed to death

CAMPAIGNERS say vulnerable children are being failed by an “archaic” system after the death of Nedim Bilgin, 17, stabbed in Caledonian Road on Tuesday.

Stephen Griffith, project director at Copenhagen Youth Project, where Nedim had been going for years, said that vulnerable young people were being let down by a system that does not prioritise local “estate-based” work.

He said: “The government is not responding to the needs of these young people who drop out of the system in ways that are going to improve their life. It’s the fundamental issue here.

“Funding is more of a tick-boxing exercise a lot of the time.

“There need to be more informal and easy access services. There is not enough of this around.”

Stephen Griffith

Nedim, who lived in York Way Court, was known to the police and had been referred to the council’s social services.

A missing person appeal was sent out by police in December.

Mr Griffith said: “There needs to be more investment in local initiatives, centres and people that are embedded in the community, where young people feel comfortable.

“Islington has these big youth hubs that work for some children. But the more vulnerable do not feel comfortable travelling out of their area.

“If you put a hub in Chapel Market then boys from Cally Road will wonder if boys from Essex Road or Holloway will turn up. They’re not going to go. Estate-based work is needed.

“We are living in a very archaic way of doing things. It is almost prehistoric.”
Mr Griffith also called for early intervention work.

“I could pinpoint the 20 or so kids in this area who are causing the most problems,” he
added.

Islington Council’s integrated gangs team (IGT) has focused on early intervention since 2016.
It aims to identify and “intensively support” young people entrenched in gangs.

The council spends more per person on youth services than other local authorities in London, according to Town Hall leader Richard Watts.

Bereaved Islington mother Jessica Plummer, whose son Shaquan Sammy-Plummer was knifed to death four years ago to the day on Wednesday, said that many children in the capital feel they have lost their voice.

The 48-year-old Park Side Crescent resident said: “You hear about the stabbing and you think: My god, how is the mother coping? You think about the parents first. I wish I could reach out to his mother and make her know she is not alone.”

Ms Plummer gives talks in Islington about the experience of losing her son. “I do not have to go to schools,” she said. “But because of my pain, I want to change this pain into something positive. I don’t charge the schools. I do it because of the love I have for them.

Jessica Plummer

“I don’t look at these boys and girls as other people’s children, I look at them as my son, my daughter.

“We need to engage more with the children. There is nowhere for them to go. They don’t know who to trust.

“Unless we all come together, try to educate parents more, the problem will not be solved. Stop blaming everybody and not taking responsibility.”

Councillor Watts said: “I was horrified to hear that Nedim Bilgin died on our streets in such tragic circumstances.

“Our thoughts are of course with his family and wide circle of friends at this incredibly difficult and distressing time, and we are offering support to the victim’s family and reassure the wider community in the Cally.

“We have dedicated frontline staff working with police and community groups there to provide support and intervention. This includes bereavement counselling, advice to schools and community groups, and safety advice to young people via youth workers, social workers and St
Giles Trust who have expertise in this area.

“We know that not every young person will visit our youth hubs and other
provision, and we offer other support and constantly review what we
provide.”

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