Barking and Dagenham Council has relaunched its Lost Hours campaign to tackle youth violence in the borough.

Council representatives, including leader Darren Rodwell, Cllr Syed Ghani, Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe and Cllr Jane Jones, attended the event at Dagenham Park School on Thursday, September 29 .

According to Cllr Rodwell, the aim of Lost Hours is to "stop young people from carrying knives in the first instance".

"Secondly, [it is to] start questioning why certain people are doing certain actions. When they go to a sweet shop or a food shop on their way home from school, we want them to question [why].

"And then thirdly, we want to make sure that they have a future and that's really what this is all about."

The campaign began in August 2020 but, because of the Covid pandemic, the council was unable to organise an official launch.

Thursday's relaunch aims to communicate that youth violence is still an issue in Barking and Dagenham and across London.

The relaunch saw Cllr Rodwell, the borough's Young Mayor, Zubin Burley, and chief executive of Box Up Crime, Stephen Addison, giving speeches to an audience of Year 7s and their parents.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Box Up Crime's Stephen AddisonBox Up Crime's Stephen Addison (Image: Hamish McNeill)

Box Up Crime is a social enterprise that, according to Stephen, provides free boxing and music workshops to young people.

He said: "We help young people with mentoring in schools, we provide access to positive role models and just really try to create life changing opportunities for young people."

Stephen addressed said young people: "Let's not lose hours, but let's start gaining hours. Let's stop losing hours by making the wrong decisions, by hanging around with the wrong people, getting involved with criminal activities, gangs, drugs.

"Let's stop losing hours because losing hours makes you a loser, you know? Let's start gaining hours by investing our time in positive activities, like boxing, like football, like sports, like music. Whatever it is, follow your passion and gain hours."

The council showed a short film on the impacts of gang and drug culture and knife crime and the students were then invited to explore hobbies they could take up from a range of organisations, including Box Up Crime and Future Youth Zone.

Zubin said: "With Lost Hours, the worst end result could be someone getting stabbed and that's what were trying to prevent: that stage from a young person being groomed into a gang, going up until they start carrying a knife.

"I think it's especially [important] because we're not just targeting them, saying 'don't do this, don't do this'; we're also supplementing with opportunities for young people to take up in order to find that hobby that they're interested in, that makes them want to do it and not waste their time."

Barking and Dagenham Post: Zubin Burley is supporting the Ben Kinsella Trust this year, a charity dedicated to fighting knife crimeZubin Burley is supporting the Ben Kinsella Trust this year, a charity dedicated to fighting knife crime (Image: Hamish McNeill)

The launch is particularly aimed at parents, who are encouraged to be more aware of what their children are doing between 3pm and 7pm.

Chris Ash, headteacher at Dagenham Park School, said: "Unfortunately, in 2018 we had a student who got stabbed outside the school. When we were investigating that we really found out what students were getting up to outside of school.

"At 3pm they should have been going home - they weren't. They were staying out until 6pm and that's where they were getting involved in the wrong crowds, meeting the wrong people.

"So we worked with the local authority and any organisations because we wanted to give them something to do in those hours, so they didn't get groomed and they didn't go onto anything else."

Barking and Dagenham Post: Year 7 pupils listen to the speechesYear 7 pupils listen to the speeches (Image: Hamish McNeill)

Cllr Rodwell added: "Most parents don't understand today's youth in the way that my parents didn't understand me.

"It's important that as parents we are also educated in what's going on within our children's peer groups and the pressures that are put onto them."

You can find out more about the campaign and the activities that young people can get involved in here: Activities – Lost Hours.