Addressing the escalating crisis of youth safety and violence, the Peer Action Collective (PAC) is led by young people, in support of young people. 

As part of this programme, The Young Foundation is training and supporting 16- to 20-year-olds, and working with organisations across England and Wales. Together, these groups are driving this vital national movement, committed to tackling youth violence and its root causes.  

Over the next four years, PAC will employ more than 140 young people to reach more than 11,000 young people. Teams across different regions are currently designing and carrying out research on the issues that drive 10 to 25-year-olds into violence, and exploring solutions that could either support them to avoid being drawn into violence in the first place or help them escape as quickly as possible. 

Harnessing this evidence, young people will then have the time, resource, and support they need to take tangible action where they live. 

The challenges ahead

This is the second phase of PAC. From 2020 to 2023, the programme heard from more than 6,000 young people who laid out the challenges they face growing up in Britain today. Heartbreakingly, the evidence underpinning this research shows some 29% of children are living in poverty. That’s nearly one in three. Against that reality are further shocking statistics and experience – including a postcode lottery of accessing mental health care, 33k children missing from the education system, significant cuts to youth workers and youth clubs, and more than half of young people exposed to real-world acts of violence online, meaning social media and technology can quickly become a passport to trauma. Structural inequalities, including for minoritised and vulnerable young people, make this environment especially challenging to escape from, with 48% of Black and ethnic minority young people living in poverty and the number of care leavers experiencing homelessness up 33% since 2019.  

With the odds stacked against young people, urgent action is needed. Unless the root causes driving violence are identified and addressed, young people will be left in cycles of crisis, violence and crime. 

Positive steps forward

Over the next 18 months, from Birmingham to Haringey, from Cardiff to Bradford, from Gateshead to Bristol, from Blackburn to Middlesborough, and from Exeter to Hull, PAC will engage more than 5,500 young people. Collectively, they will build the evidence base and take direct action on the root causes driving violence.  

Among these causes, the programme will examine the education system, asking how schools can create the environments and provide the support to prevent exclusion. That will mean supporting young people most at risk of exclusion to have their voice heard and their needs recognised and met. It will also mean exploring how young people can be best supported through and after an exclusion to avoid being drawn into the ‘school to prison pipeline’.  

PAC will also look at how young people can link with adults they trust, who can provide the right support at the right time. That involves focusing on early interventions, the challenging transition into adult services as young people turn 18, and how environments trusted adults work in can support trust-building. 

In local communities, the PAC teams will assess the multiple barriers that prevent young people from making the most of positive activities available to them and how young people can be shielding from negative content and influencers online. 

‘Hopes for a better future’

Al Mathers, Director of Research at The Young Foundation, says:

“Youth violence is destroying lives, families and communities across the UK, and we see newspapers reporting serious youth violence with alarming regularity. The consequences and causes are complex and hugely challenging to overcome – and young people’s insights, experiences, and hopes for a better future must be at the heart of our responses. Rebalancing opportunities and support for young people to lead the change that they want to see at a national and local level is critical in terms of realising the power of participation. Therefore, The Young Foundation is proud to be part of this work, supporting youth-led, practicable action through the Peer Action Collective”.  

To support PAC to tackle the root causes driving violence, or to find out more about the programme or support our PAC teams, please contact

Education & Employment Families & Youth Health and Wellbeing Inequality Peer research Social action Posted on: 12 March 2024


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