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Bedfordshire’s gang expert speaks at social worker conference

Mon 11th September, 2017

An expert on gangs and youth violence from the University of Bedfordshire told a social work conference that young people don’t need to be directly involved with a gang to feel vulnerable to attack (Thurs 7 Sept).

Dr Suzella Palmer, a Lecturer in Applied Social Studies, spoke at a social workers’ conference organised by Wandsworth Council, argued that being around gang-related activities can be damaging for young people, even if they are not directly involved.

“Being an adolescent is challenging enough. Being in and around a criminal gang can make a young person additionally vulnerable to difficulties with their mental health because of the stress and anxiety caused by the real and imagined risk of being attacked, and the feeling of being trapped in this lifestyle or environment,” said Dr Palmer, who works in the University’s Institute of Applied Social Research.

Dr Suzella Palmer

“If they are black or from another ethnic minority group, all this is compounded by racism and some end up desensitised to violence, depressed and suicidal, bringing about a sense of nihilism.”

Dr Palmer emphasised the need for those who work with young people at every level to keep diversity in mind when offering interventions to help young people.

“We need culturally sensitive and community-based interventions to provide support to these young people and in a way that recognises the dynamics of age, class, gender and ethnicity and being in and around a gang and can help young people navigate their way to a better life,” said Dr Palmer.

She also suggested mentoring and peer mentoring seemed to be good ways of helping young people, and more research should be conducted in this area.

Bedfordshire University

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