Could earlier council action have prevented the death of stabbed Luton teenager?

'We really felt at that time if we could have done something earlier we might have been able to save a life' admits councillor

Friday, 1st October 2021, 11:59 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 12:00 am

A question mark hung over a local authority after a teenager was stabbed outside a Luton school and later died in hospital, a meeting heard.

Labour Challney councillor Tahir Malik was referring to an incident in his ward in June which saw of 16-year-old Humza Hussain fatally attacked outside Challney High School for Boys in Stoneygate Road.

"We really felt at that time if we could have done something earlier we might have been able to save a life," he told the borough council's administration and regulation committee on Thursday (Sept 30).

Luton Town Hall. Above left Cllr Tahir Malik, above right Humza Hussain

"There was a question mark on us and the local authority."

A staff restructuring within Luton youth offending and targeted youth services was being presented to the committee by its service manager Dave Collins.

"The local safeguarding children's board is taking a thematic (approach) into that to look at systemically what could have been done differently," he explained.

"That report, because I'm part of it, the things we're identifying and the research we're looking at is pretty much in line with what we're creating in Luton.

"We're not following a trend or copying anyone else. We're developing our services because they've worked for our young people. And I look forward to that report coming out."

The service needs a new name and rebranding, according to the committee.

"Ultimately this will be consulted on and chosen by using the views and voice of children, but the word offending has to be removed, said the report.

"We can't publicise the narrative around criminal exploitation of children and immediately label them with the offender tag."

Labour Leagrave councillor Waheed Akbar, who chairs the committee, referred to possible savings, and asked: "What impact will this have on service delivery?"

Mr Collins replied: "I'm hoping it's going to have a positive impact by creating a management framework that has practise managers that aren't just there for operational day-to-day delivery.

"They're there to drive forward the developments and performance of the service.

"We don't lose any services as part of this structure. At some point in the next six months the project will bring staff in who can work with young people earlier.

"The multi-agency gangs panel still works to assess and target intervention of young people earlier, and the amber project still works across schools.

"Everything we deliver relating to serious violence, or child criminal exploitation is when that child is already in crisis, or what I describe as services at the cliff edge. We still need those.

"When you've a town with the levels of social and economical issues we have you're always going to have that. We need to look ahead for the future and need to start working further up stream."

Councillor Akbar said: "The issues Luton is facing I think you should be targeting more on knife crime, gang crime and the anti-social behaviour with the other departments. I think that's needed."

Mr Collins said: "Let's take custody, for example. In 2016/17, 32 kids went into custody from Luton.

"The remands which go in are £217 a day, so £96,000 a year. That comes out of the local authority budget for a young person.

"The work we did as a targeted youth service and a multi-agency gangs panel has seen us reduce remands to one as of today. It saves the council money.

"The early intervention and prevention work has served to reduce that.

"The ultimate aim of creating a contextual safeguarding service under this would be to lower school exclusions, to reduce looked after children and to cut the youth justice footprint by reducing custody and remands.

"The ambition is to protect our children in our communities. In the last five years we've reduced that footprint and made savings.

"We've had one first time entrant since April," he added. "We've got one young person in custody. And our reoffending sits at 21 per cent, which sounds a lot until you compare with the national average of 38 per cent."