Written evidence submitted by the Office of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner



  1. Bedfordshire’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Festus Akinbusoye and the local Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) launched a 12-month pilot in June 2022 to support schools deal with persistent absenteeism. The VERU is funded by the Home Office through Police and Crime Commissioners.
  2. PCC Akinbusoye initiated this pilot based on Department of Education report into school absenteeism and youth offending[1], as well as his concerns around missing children and those that repeatedly come into police custody[2]. This intervention forms part of his focus on early intervention, crime prevention through system-wide partnership working.
  3. The pilot includes two schools from each of the three local authorities in the county, and one alternative provision setting. It does not replace the statutory role of LAs, but rather plugs gaps by providing additional, specialist support to schools, given the direct costs and shortage of Education Welfare Officers.
  4. Key objective is to have trained, Youth Intervention Service (YIS) officers step into this space, take referrals from the participating schools and engage with pupils, while minimising the role of police officers where possible.
  5. The YIS staff work within Bedfordshire’s VERU and include staff with lived experience of the environment they work in.
  6. The following submission outlines the key learnings from the pilot so far, including the common factors that have been found in cases of persistent absence, and examples of multi-agency working to provide support and solutions for schools and young people.
  7. An academic from University of Bedfordshire, who is part of a Working Group that also includes Local Authority, school Heads and SEND parent representatives, will be conducting an independent evaluation of the pilot in June 2023. Having a multi-agency approach and buy-in was critical to getting the pilot off the ground.

Bedfordshire Absenteeism Pilot

  1. Since the absenteeism pilot commenced in June 2022, a total of 116 young people have received specialist intervention from the VERU’s YIS staff as a result of being referred into the PCC’s pilot (See case studies in appendix). Engagement with pupils is maintained during school holidays. This is essential.
  2. So far, the pilot has resulted in several positive outcomes for the young people and families that are being supported. All 116 people who have been referred to the pilot are engaging with the VERU and feedback from the families has been positive. Parents and carers of the referred pupils have told the team that they are thankful for the support in addressing their child’s absence from education as they often feel powerless in tackling the issue alone.

The factors causing persistent and severe absence among different groups of pupils

  1. The pilot has provided a unique opportunity for the VERU to build trusting relationships with young people in the community who may be vulnerable or at risk of crime or criminality. As a result, the team has been able to identify some initial key learning points that appear to have influenced these young people in disengaging from education.
  2. Lifestyle changes were found to have an impact, such as going to bed late and struggling to wake early for school.
  3. Many of those engaged in the pilot also reported feelings that the majority of learning is not going to help them in life. Aspects of the curriculum may appear to be outdated, particularly in the ways they are taught. There continues to be a focus on classroom based, academic learning with less opportunity for kinaesthetic learners to try ‘hands on’ learning, topics or vocations. Therefore, students may find themselves bored and disengaged from lessons.
  4. Another key learning from the pilot is that the school environment and feelings of safety are influential on pupil attendance. Young people may not choose to attend school if they feel unsafe, which some have said influences them to make friendships or align themselves with known gang members in order to feel protected within the community.
  5. When speaking to the young people themselves, many have communicated that having someone to trust and empower them, outside of their teachers and families, has allowed them to feel heard and that no issue is unworthy of their mentor’s time. This has allowed the VERU team to build a strong rapport with the young people referred into the pilot, encouraging them to build relationships with their mentors and talk freely in a trusted environment. This is reflected in the 100 per cent engagement rate from referrals with the VERU.
  6. In the VERU’s engagement with families, many parents have expressed more general concerns relating to their financial struggles and frustrations at how fines for non-attendance have further impacted their financial insecurity.


How schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance

  1. The initial findings from the absenteeism pilot provide significant scope for the VERU, as well as wider partners across Bedfordshire, to continue to work closely with schools to provide support in addressing these issues, in an attempt to minimise the risk of persistent absenteeism within the education system.
  2. The majority of this activity is funded via the Home Office through its Violence Reduction Unit funding. However, this fund does not cover all policing areas meaning children and young people in other areas not benefitting from this funding may not receive the same interventions.
  3. More widely, although links between serious violence and exclusions are not clear cut, other PCCs across England and Wales are also delivering activities to reduce serious violence. Examples of these include interventions to prevent school exclusion and projects that deliver educational sessions covering the dangers of knife crime, that aim to improve school attendance and behaviour, reduce suspensions and exclusions, strengthen community links and prevent serious violence.
  4. Whilst this funding may not be available to every policing area, the new statutory Serious Violence Duty does commit PCCs, police and education services, as well as other public services, to work closely together to deliver work to reduce serious violence. Home Office guidance explicitly requires local partnerships to develop a strategic needs assessment, which should be formulated following an evidence-based analysis of information relating to the violent crime types, including education data, for example attendance, suspension and exclusion. This further demonstrates how crime prevention can and should link to education.


Further information:

  1. Festus Akinbusoye is the elected PCC for Bedfordshire. In addition to this role, Festus serves as a national lead for Prevention at the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners. In November last year, Festus provided oral evidence at a Home Affairs Select Committee into policing priorities, highlighting the issue of vulnerable children missing from care homes and demand on police time. Additionally, Festus has spoken publicly to raise awareness of  the risks around children and young people being absent from home:


  1. The PCC would be happy to attend a session of the Committee to provide further details of his and PCC colleagues work in this important area.



Case Studies

  1. Young Person A successfully completed 8 sessions of the programme with the Youth Intervention Specialist. It was reported that her behaviour improved, and she was successful in securing a full-time landscaping apprenticeship. 
  2. Young Person B was struggling to attend education, the Youth Intervention Specialist increased their visits to support the young person to attend, which was successful. The young person has since closed to YIS, she no longer wished to engage with the YIS team and was not attending education. A referral was made to MASH and discussions were held with them to consider services that could support moving forward.
  3. Young Person C has attended 10 sessions with the YIS worker, she is currently stating she does not wish to attend but the worker is continuing to try and engage. The young person was at risk of CSE and father was struggling to implement boundaries. Since working with the YIS Team there has been excellent partnership working between YIS, Police and Local Authority which has resulted in CSE disruption. The young person’s understanding of healthy relationships has developed, and she is now questioning why adult males would want to be in a relationship with someone of her age. A managed move took place, the young person attended education for around one month, but this has since broken down. Since working with YIS referrals have been made to Aquarius, the VERU Career Development Professional and Samsons Academy.
  4. Young Person D has attended 9 sessions with the YIS worker and is continuing to engage. Young person C and D are siblings. The young person was at risk of CSE and father was struggling to implement boundaries. Since working with the YIS Team there has been excellent partnership working between YIS, police and Local Authority which has resulted in CSE disruption. The young person’s understanding of healthy relationships has developed. The young person was unaware of the role of girls in gangs, since completing the work she has a greater understanding. A managed moved was arranged and the young person attended for a week. She is refusing to attend education at present. Since working with YIS referrals have been made to Aquarius, VERU Career Development Professional, The Mix and Samsons Academy.
  5. Young Person E has attended 9 sessions with the YIS worker. The young person struggled to engage with the Youth Intervention Specialist, fathers’ engagement was a factor. Since the work has commenced father has shared that he would like the YIS worker to also work with his daughter. It is reported that the engagement is positive, since working with the YIS worker the young person has changed his peer group, no ASB reported and his views on gangs have changed. The YIS worker support the young person to apply for college and has secured funding for a gym membership. The young person now plans on completing college and would like to apply for the army.  Since working with YIS the worker has secured a gym membership for 4 months, arranged an Career Development Professional advice appointment with the school, this supported the YP to enrol at college on a level 1 Sports Development course. The young person was robbed at knife point during his first week attending college, he voiced that he did not wish to return due to this traumatic event, he has been supported to apply for another college and is now attending.
  6. Young Person F has been closed due to moving out of the area, he has since returned and requested to work with the YIS worker again. The allocated worker has been advised to submit an updated referral.
  7. Young Person G there was no engagement, it was confirmed that a professional network was in place to continue to support the young person on their journey.
  8. Young Person H has attended 3 sessions with the YIS worker. The YIS worker is working with mother and social worker to improve their school attendance. There has been a school move in the last two months. A referral to Chums is being completed.

February 2023






[1] understanding-educational-background-of-young-offenders-full-report.pdf (

[2] examining-the-educational-background-of-young-knife-possession-offenders.pdf (