Last week I attended a summit which launched the new, multi-agency, ‘public health duty’, to help spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger; whether that’s arriving at A&E with suspicious injuries, or worrying behavior at school or issues at home.

Attendees from law enforcement agencies, health, education and the voluntary sector heard heartbreaking and humbling stories from young people with experience of living in communities impacted by serious violence.

We also heard first-hand about the work that many do through faith groups, charities or just as individuals to tackle the issue. The passion on display was truly inspiring to see.

I sent a letter of thanks to Victoria Atkins MP for inviting me to the roundtable to represent Co-op and our millions of members, setting out how committed we are about making a difference and sharing the work we’re doing as part of our Safer colleagues, Safer Communities campaign.

We have a role to play

I feel very strongly that businesses have a role to play and real contribution to make in helping give these young people different choices.

We have assets –professional skills, employment opportunities and suppliers we work with – which can do more than just make us a successful business, they can help our communities become stronger.

It’s clear from the £10m in funding we’ve provided through our Local Community Fund to 4,000 local projects working with young people, the partnership we’re just starting with the Damilola Taylor Trust and the hundreds of young people who join us as apprentices each year that as a business, we can make a real difference.

I came away from the roundtable inspired and even more determined for Co-op to live up to our heritage by working with others so we can help make a difference in the communities we serve.

The Government has our full support to tackle this issue and we’re keen to explore ways where Co-op can act as catalyst to bring other businesses together, so we can use all our assets and really help individuals and communities.

Chris Whitfield
Chief Operating Officer, Retail

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. It’s great to be involved with an organisation that supports something so important.

    Serious youth violence is closer to home than most realise. It’s in all areas of the country and from all backgrounds (not just the stereotypical youth we think). Much of the violence is drug related. Many youths are involved purely through peer pressure.

    A recent local incident resulting in the death of a youth made me realise just how close to my home (and obviously my children) serious violence is. It’s not just the youths involved it’s all the families (parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, etc) that are affected by one incident.

    Anything we can do to reduce violence is great, especially if it means saving youths from injury, prison or worse.

  2. It’s great to be part of this coop , forward thinking and back to campaigning and cooperating for what matters in the Uk

  3. Great work from our Coop Leaders championing young people and supporting local communities. Proud to be part of the Safer Colleagues Safer Communities Programme.

  4. We’ve got a campaigns and policies director who had a lot of success on Modern Slavery.

    Could he not get involved in this on an ongoing basis ?

    As chief operating officer I’m sure you’ve got a lot to do running the Co-op!

    • Thank you for the kind comments on the success of the modern slavery campaign which has been vey much a team effort right across our Co-op although my team in Campaigns and Public Affairs and I have led the campaign.

      Part of our job is – as our name suggests – to lead the Co-op’s campaigns and that is what we do whether be slavery, loneliness or, here, Safer Colleagues Safer Communities and you can be assured we are very much involved in this campaign.

      I spent 20 years in Government and one of the things I know as a result is that Government will listen and take notice of those with real expertise and insight which is why Chris, with decades of experience in retail businesses, makes such a compelling and influential advocate in meetings like this….and I know having spoken to a number of people afterwards that Chris did just that in this meeting; he is a brilliant advocate for our Co-op and we are lucky he is so passionate about this issue.

      Sometimes my role is to be the face of our campaigns but very often – and often more effective – it is about ensuring our most compelling voices are in the right rooms with the right people and I am sure you’ll agree that we did just that with this one!


  5. I am glad you were there and hope the government finds ways to build on the resources we can offer in constructive ways.

    There are powerful examples to follow in the experience of the Police in Scotland and the work of their Violence Reduction Unit.

    The VRU made bold statements to young people in simple, no nonsense terms. For example, chalk outlines of a body and a knife once appeared in 15 areas identified as gang trouble spots.

    Officers also proactively visited suspected gang members, targeted their meeting places and monitored their activity on early social networking sites, such as Bebo.

    What they didn’t do is have a multi-agency, ‘public health duty’, to report a young person arriving at A&E with suspicious injuries, or worrying behavior at school or issues at home. They could see that it would be counter -productive and that it would deter people from seeking help.

    I hope you will be able to make this point to someone in government and bring some more non-political insight into their work.

    We had a lot of success on Modern Slavery through Paul Gerrard – can you not get him involved in this ?

    • What a great and insightful post.

      The public health approach is one pioneered in Scotland but one which the Prime Minster signalled at the Summit Chris attended would become a UK-wide approach.

      I think at its heart is the multi-agency approach you describe but I think the role of businesses is not understood or used enough. Jo Whitfield wrote to the Home Secretary three weeks ago and, as you can see, Chris has written to the Minister of State here, making clear that business have assets – money, expertise, supply chains – which can be used to help address social problems as we have done on slavery, loneliness and, as Chris’ letter makes clear, now on crime in communities be it through the Local Community Fund or the new partnership with the Damilola Taylor Trust. This is our Co-op difference – helping individuals and communities make different choices speaking right to our values of solidarity, self-help and self-responsibility.

      It was very kind of you to highlight the success of the modern slavery campaign but that has been vey much a team effort right across our Co-op although my team in Campaigns and Public Affairs and I have led the campaign.

      You’ll see in an earlier answer that my 20 years in Government tells me they will listen to people like Chris who have such a depth of expertise and insight from decades of experience in retail businesses. As a Campaigns Public Affairs Director, I am so lucky to have such a brilliant advocate in our Co-op who is so passionate about this issue.


  6. That is wonderful and another example of the Co-operative difference.
    Co-ops do, though we like to talk too.

    • Spot on … Co-ops are intensely practical which is what makes us so effective!


  7. Fantastic, I’m so proud to be part of a business that is willing to support and inspire young people, well done co-op. I previously worked with young people with challenging behaviour, positive support turns the majorities lives around

    • Catriona

      thanks for this post.

      I was discussing what could help young people with challenging behaviours with a charity called the Archway Project in London, who we have supported previously through the Local Community Fund, and the CEO;’s response was that showing a bit of respect to them would go a long way….echoes what you have said and I hope our Co-op will begin to show how businesses can provide that positive and respectful support.

      Thanks again


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