Research

The Violence Reduction Unit’s Knowledge Hub are continuously striving to better understand the scale and extent of violence in West Yorkshire as well as those root causes and protective factors that may make a person more susceptible or protect them from violence involvement or exploitation.

The Violence Reduction Unit’s Knowledge Hub are continuously striving to better understand the scale and extent of violence in West Yorkshire as well as those root causes and protective factors that may make a person more susceptible or protect them from violence involvement or exploitation.

Our learning is pulled together in the yearly Needs Assessment, which in turn feeds the Response Strategy informing the priority areas we need to address.

Our Needs Assessment also helps us identify where we have gaps in our knowledge and understanding. To address the gaps, we design, undertake and commission research throughout the year.

Whilst key findings will be drawn into the latest version of our Needs Assessment, the full reports are published below.

 

Drugs and alcohol

Humankind was commissioned by West Yorkshire VRU in November 2021 so that so that they and their stakeholders may better understand the context and interdependencies between substance use and violence among young people and how relationships between generations influence those links.

The Review is structured in four parts:

  1. Context and Literature Review – containing an Executive Summary, Overview of all Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations, References.
  2. Briefing on the Alcohol Harm Paradox – stand-alone paper with Literature Review, Findings and Recommendations, References.
  3. Briefing on the Impact of Covid-19 on Young People’s Substance Use and Violence standalone paper with Literature Review, Findings and Recommendations, References.
  4. Review of Evidence from Young People and Family Services and themes from mapping services.

The recommendations made in this Review are proposed in the context that most—if not all— services and support will be moving towards individual and collective trauma informed approaches of service delivery with the aim of preventing further trauma.

Report - The links between drugs, alcohol, and serious violence: a review of evidence and practice in West Yorkshire (PDF 1.45MB)

Executive Summary - The links between drugs, alcohol, and serious violence: a review of evidence and practice in West Yorkshire (PDF 1MB)

Appendix 1 - The Alcohol Harm Paradox: A Review of Evidence (PDF 992KB)

Appendix 2 - How, and to what extent, has Covid-19 influenced the drug use and alcohol consumption of young people? A Review of Evidence (PDF 972KB)

Appendix 3 - Evidence from Young People and Family Services and themes from mapping services (PDF 997KB)

 

Raising Aspirations

Rocket Science was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in November 2021 to understand how the aspirations of young people could be raised and how to improve their educational attainment to support their longer-term employment and training prospects across key transition points in their education journey. The overarching research questions underpinning this research were:

  • What is the current state of aspirations and attainment in West Yorkshire?
  • What risk factors and barriers to aspirational development are there?
  • What interventions are effective at raising aspirations?

The research found that the majority of young people they spoke to in West Yorkshire had positive aspirations, which were predominantly focused on particular career routes, but also included goals related to education and lifestyle. The report highlighted several key findings that could impact on a young person’s aspirations, noting the importance of positive role models, parents and engagement in education to name a few and provided recommendations for how the Violence Reduction Unit can appropriately respond.

Raising Aspirations - Final report for West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (PDF 1.62MB)

 

Social Media

Social Finance was commissioned by West Yorkshire VRU in November 2021 in order to understand how social media use relates to violence and psychological harms among young people in West Yorkshire, and what the key opportunities for harm mitigation are.

The research found that more than 2/3 of young people who use social media view upsetting content on it. In addition, most young people experience poorer mental health as a result of distressing content on social media. Also, in some cases, harassment and abuse on social media can lead to low level violence and conflict, such a school fights and in rare cases is associated with serious violence.

The research recommended that trauma-informed education-based support is developed and co-designed with young people to ensure it meets their needs.

Report - Social media, psychological harm and violence among young people (PDF 2.3MB)

In early 2021, the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) partnered with the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Leeds to offer a Masters degree student the opportunity to collaborate on a research project.

The dual aims of the collaboration were to produce a bespoke piece of research linked to the VRU’s strategic priorities as well as to help develop the next generation of criminal justice and law professionals in West Yorkshire.

Criminal Law student Annabel Walker completed a research paper on the relationship between social media and violence, including an investigation of previously established interventions to address the ‘spill over’ of online tensions into real world violence. The findings from the paper will support the VRU’s objective of using the best available evidence to underpin violence reduction interventions in the region.

Report - Social Media and Violence: a study into the relationship between them and interventions to address this issue in West Yorkshire (PDF 1.61MB)

Briefing note - Social Media and Violence: a study into the relationship between them and interventions to address this issue in West Yorkshire (PDF 363KB)

 

Low Level Mental Health

Rocket Science was commissioned by West Yorkshire VRU in November 2021 to research the links between low-level mental health issues and violence amongst young people. To address the research questions, Rocket Science undertook an extensive evidence review to understand the issues, and then conducted consultation with young people, parents, youth workers and teachers. This was done using a mix of surveys, focus groups, workshops and interviews.

Key findings suggest that mental health issues are a growing issue among young people, with data showing that they particularly affect girls in their teens. The prevalence has increased over the past years due to COVID-19 with the loss of routine, lack of school structure, social isolation, and prolonged uncertainty being key factors.

In addition, the presentation and interpretation of mental health issues differs between boys and girls, likewise their experiences of violence are likely to be different. Risk and protective factors are broadly similar for both mental health and for violence and include family situation, lack of engagement with school, adverse childhood experiences, special educational needs and being NEET (not in employment, education, or training).

Access to activities and support is inconsistent across West Yorkshire; availability, transport and cost of activities were reported as the main barriers to taking part in support.

Report - Young people’s experience of low-level mental health issues and violence (PDF 1.66MB)

Appendix - Methods Statement and Research Questions (PDF 802KB)

 

Neurodiversity

Rocket Science was commissioned by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in December 2021 to conduct research into neurodiverse young people’s experience of violence. The review brings together evidence from published research and consultations with perspectives from both experts in the field of neurodiversity and young people who are neurodiverse.

Drawing firm conclusions is difficult given the breadth of neurodiversity, its under-diagnosis and a lack of awareness of across systems and services. However, it is apparent that whilst the risk factors for involvement in violence are the same for neurotypical and neuroatypical young people those who are neurodiverse are more likely to experience some risk factors, particularly in relation to social isolation and exposure to traumatic life events as a result of their diversity.

Report - Neurodiversity and violence (PDF 1.38MB)

 

Education Inclusion

Crest Advisory partnered with West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to examine patterns and trends of school exclusions in West Yorkshire and what factors contributed to them, paying special attention to the period since the outbreak of Covid-19.

The final report explores evidence about ‘what works’ to reduce unnecessary school exclusions, maintain an inclusive educational environment and pursue educational initiatives aimed at cutting serious violence and the exploitation of young people.

Report - Education Inclusion Project (PDF 6.59MB)

 

Addressing the root causes of serious violence and exploitation of young people in West Yorkshire

Crest Advisory worked with the Health and Care Partnership and the VRU to conduct a broad research piece on serious violence and exploitation of young people in the Police Force Area; assessing what personal and area level health, social, and structural inequalities are acting as drivers or catalysts in their engagement in criminality and exploitation. This has been completed by identifying and engaging with a range of stakeholders (including young people and service users), publicly available crime data and insight from local services.

This report brings together this qualitative and quantitative evidence, a best practice review, and sets out recommendations that can help the H&CP and the VRU to leverage their resources and influence to minimise the impact and onset of health inequalities under the key objective of violence reduction and youth safety.

Report - Addressing the root causes of serious violence and exploitation of young people in West Yorkshire (PDF 6.31MB)

 

Violence against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) cannot be underestimated, it is an inherent societal problem that takes many forms and has damaging consequences. Conviction rates for VAWG are poor and can deter women from reporting abuse. Victim withdrawal, due to distrust, and evidential difficulties contribute to low conviction rates. Women and girls can be victims, perpetrators, mothers, bystanders, and recruiters. Whilst this typology is not exhaustive, it aims to cover the key aspects of their involvement in violence. The roles of perpetrators, bystanders, and recruiters warrants further research, especially in a UK or West Yorkshire context.

Trauma, school disengagement and addiction have been presented as risk factors for perpetration and victimisation. Age, ethnicity, religion, and identity have been acknowledged as key components to understanding the varying needs of women and girls. Engagement with women in our region is required to ensure the needs summarised from literature are accurate for West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire’s diversity means a singular, universal approach to reducing the risk of VAWG cannot be adopted. In response to this, a long-term public health approach, which tackles the deep rooted and engrained social, health and economic problems facing women and girls is the best chance to addressing VAWG.

Report - Violence Against Women and Girls (PDF 2.08MB)

 

Adversity, Trauma and Resilience in West Yorkshire

A review of life-course evidence, approaches and provision to support the transformation to a trauma informed health and care system by 2030. Produced by Humankind in partnership with the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership and West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit.

The report uses 5 evidence sources, a rapid evidence review, mapping exercises, lived experience accounts, an equalities impact assessment and future demand estimates, to answer the following five questions:

  1. How do individuals make meaning out of trauma, how do they move beyond trauma, and what does a life after trauma look like?
  2. How do we identify and prevent adversity and trauma (in children and young people)?
  3. How do we prevent the re-traumatisation of people who are in services?
  4. What are the system changes and drivers we need to stimulate?
  5. What different things need to happen at place and systems levels?

Report - Adversity, Trauma and Resilience in West Yorkshire (PDF 6.39MB)