‘It’s crazy out there’: Closure of youth clubs across UK ‘pushing children to violence’ | UK News


A father who lost his son to a stabbing says the closing down of youth centres across the country is “pushing children to violence”.

Dwayne Roye, a community activist from Croydon, hosted his seventh annual football tournament today to raise awareness about knife crime.

During the past seven years, he’s lost five close people in his life to knife crime.

However, this time round, the tournament’s cause has really hit home.

Dwayne is the father of Damarie Omare Roye, a 16-year-old boy who was murdered in a fatal knife attack last July.

Dwayne described Damarie as a family person, very loving and caring especially to his younger brothers.
Dwayne described Damarie as a caring and loving family person

Dwayne, who manages Elite Development FC, a youth football team in Croydon, believes budget cuts that have decimated youth services in parts of England – particularly south London – are linked to the rise in knife crime.

He told Sky News: “Every borough used to have a community centre – Brixton, Peckham, Croydon – but now they’ve all been shut down and this has had a terrible impact on our communities.

“Children are falling into violence because there’s nothing for them to do.”

The 42-year-old father has two young sons, aged 11 and 14.

“Right now, I’m scared of my kids coming home from school,” he added. “It’s just crazy out there. You get up, and you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.”

He’s called on the government to “start reopening and investing in more activities and youth workers for the children”.

“The government is building shops and other infrastructure, but where are the community centres?” he said.

Read more: Grim roll call of young victims killed in capital in 2021

Damarie was 'loving and caring' to his younger brothers.
Damarie was ‘loving and caring’ to his younger brothers

‘Damage caused by austerity’

A government spokesperson told Sky News that they’re taking a “twin-track approach, combining tough enforcement to get dangerous weapons off the streets with programmes that steer young people away from crime through Violence Reduction Units (VRUs)”.

They added: “We are also investing £560m over the next three years in a new National Youth Guarantee, so that by 2025 every young person will have access to regular clubs and activities, including opportunities to volunteer.”

It will be made a legal duty for agencies to collaborate to tackle serious violence at a local level, as “protecting young people from harm requires a joined-up response on the ground”.

Additionally, the government has made £130m available this financial year to tackle serious violence, including murder and knife crime.

But UNISON’s head of local government Mike Short described the extra money from government as “a drop in the ocean”.

“It won’t cover the scale of damage caused by austerity,” Mr Short told Sky News

“If ministers want to tackle crime, they need to rebuild youth services. And that means investing much more than they’ve promised.”

A number of people attended the football tournament in Dulwich.
A number of people attended the football tournament in Dulwich

Youngsters ‘heavily pressured by gang life’

Alex Whitter is one of the youngsters who plays for Elite Development FC.

The 18-year-old was close friends with Damarie and captained Dwayne’s side throughout the 2019-20 season.

Alex has seen dozens of his friends who were previously “heavily influenced and pressured by the gang life” transform their lives for the good through the youth club.

“It was hard for them to remain focused on school, however, Elite Development was a fantastic escape route which allowed them to pursue their dream,” he said.

The football club has also aided Alex in the most difficult period of his life when his mother passed away due to cancer last year.

“My mum was the most influential person in my life,” he said. “My mum was my provider, my inspiration, and my role model, so losing her was extremely difficult to comprehend.”

Alexs' mother passed away on the Friday 6th March 2020, the same day he had his final GCSE Maths Mock exam.
Alexs’ mother passed away on the 6 March 2020, the same day he had his final GCSE Maths mock exam

Victim Support, which provides support to anyone who has lost a loved one to murder or manslaughter, is helping Dwayne through the national homicide service.

To access support, you can call their free 24/7 support line on 0808 168 9111 or use the live chat services via their website.

Anyone with information about the possession of knives or criminal activity relating to this type of crime should call 101.

Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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