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News Report Page 8 of 14
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Merseyside Police awarded ₤3.37m to work with partners to fight serious violence

MERSEYSIDE Police has secured ₤3.37m of Government funding to work with partners to tackle violent crime, the Region's Police Commissioner has announced. The money has been allocated from the Home Secretary's Serious Violence Fund to establish the Region's 1st Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), strengthening its response to the increase in incidences of serious violence, including knife crime. VRUs are designed to bring a wide range of partners, including the police, Local Authorities, health and education professionals, community leaders and other key stakeholders together to adopt a public health approach to tackling serious violence. The VRU will focus on reducing crime by preventing children and young people from entering into criminal activities in the 1st place. The allocation of funding comes just a month after the Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, announced her intention to establish a multi agency partnership, the Violence Reduction Partnership, with the aim of preventing and reducing the incidences of violence, as well as identifying the underlying reasons for the recent increase in serious crime on Merseyside.

Merseyside's Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said:- "After lobbying Central Government for many months about the need for extra funding to tackling serious violence in Merseyside, I am pleased that ministers have listened. This award of ₤3.37m will enable Merseyside Police to work with our partners to establish a Violence Reduction Unit which will help to bolster the response to serious violence and knife crime. The causes of violence are complex and deep-seated. If we are determined to make a lasting change and break the violent hold that some gangs have over some of our neighbourhoods, it is essential that all of those who can help the police embrace this opportunity to do so. We need to look beyond the immediate suppression of violence, important though that is, to societal problems including poverty, mental ill-health, education, issues of addiction and lack of opportunity. This funding will support the work already underway to explore a public health approach to tackling the underlying causes of serious violence with the long term aim of preventing and reducing incidences of violence on Merseyside. It will also strengthen the police and our partners in their relentless fight against crime networks and, in particular focus on breaking the cycle of offending, tackling the exploitation of young people and dismantling the county lines structures. While this investment is very welcome, it does need to be viewed in the wider context; Merseyside Police has been cut by ₤110m since 2010, leading to the loss of more than 1,600 officers and staff. This award is a one-off payment for a specific project which must be spent in this financial year. So, while it enables Merseyside Police, working with our community safety partners, to reinforce the fight against serious violence in the short term, it does not offer a long term solution to funding our police service. We need a sustainable approach which will ensure we have the funds we need year on year and I will continue to urge ministers to enable this."

Merseyside Police's Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said:- "The ₤3.37m funding allocated by the Home Office for this year will be used to establish an effective public health approach to reducing violent crime, early intervention and protecting our communities. The unique approach will be put together by representatives from various organisations across Merseyside including:- Local Authorities, health trusts, education and other key stakeholders, and they will work together with Merseyside Police to develop a comprehensive approach to tackling serious violent crime, including knife crime. The partnership will be focussed on making the streets of Merseyside safer through sharing professional knowledge and developing enhanced and robust strategies to put offenders on the back foot, whilst at the same time providing support for victims and preventing young people from becoming involved in crime."

The funding has been provisionally allocated to 18 PCCs in areas that are worst affected by serious violence, and will be spent in partnership with Local Authority, health and education partners across England and Wales. It comes a month after Merseyside Police was allocated a total of ₤4.2m in:- "surge funding" to enable Merseyside to deliver short term operational activities to tackle serious violence, focussing on reducing and reacting to street violence. 1 condition the Government has set is that the money must all be spent by April 2020. The ₤100 million Serious Violence Fund was announced by the Government in the March Spring Statement.

Council warns against 'despicable' Universal Credit scam

Deceit and Despair: People in Liverpool are being targeted by Universal Credit scammers.

BENEFITS Chiefs in Liverpool are warning members of the public about a Universal Credit scam that has already left vulnerable people penniless. Liverpool City Council's Revenue and Benefits Team has joined forces with the City's Citizens' Advice Liverpool to urge residents to beware of callous con-merchants who are posing as Benefits Officials. Liverpool City Council's lead for Fairness and Tackling Poverty, Cllr Jane Corbett said:- "This is a despicable con in which the culprits are preying directly on the most vulnerable members of society. The advance payment can be up to 100 per cent of the victim's benefit claim, so they really can end up with nothing. Not only do they have to pay the advance back but they now find themselves signed up to Universal Credit, which often means they will receive less money than they used to."

The scam involves the victim being approached in public places and encouraged to apply for a:- 'Government loan' by sitting down with the fraudster and filling in their details online. In reality, the crooks sign their prey up to change their existing benefits to Universal Credit and then request an advance payment. They then take a sizeable 'cut' of the advance, leaving the victim unwittingly on the new benefit and faced with paying off the full amount of the advance payment. The fraudster then has the victim's personal details, leaving them open for further fraud in the future. Cllr Corbett added:- "We have contacted the DWP at national level, to ask them to raise the alarm and provide people with the right guidance but so far nothing has been issued. The negative effects of Universal Credit are bad enough, without vulnerable people falling foul of this cruel and sickening scam which could leave them penniless and in debt."

In 1 Liverpool incident, a member of the public was approached by a fraudster posing as an official in the City Centre. They sat down with a laptop and with just a few details managed to sign the victim up to Universal Credit. The con artist successfully applied for a ₤1,200 advance payment and took ₤800 of it for themselves. There have been reports of the scam taking place across the country, with some examples of people and families being ₤1,000 a month worse off having fallen foul of it. Chair of CAL, Frank Hont said:- "It is terrifying to think that the system is open to such abuse and that these fraudsters can potentially ruin someone's life in about ½ an hour, with a few details and a few clicks of a mouse. Clearly there need to be more checks and balances within the system to help combat this sort of fraud. However, we would ask the public to be vigilant and do not be taken in by such offers. No official will approach you in the street and they will never ask for your personal details. Never hand over money, or your personal details and never agree to anything on the spot. Please always check with the DWP or the Citizens Advice Bureau before signing or agreeing to anything."

Citizens Advice Liverpool (CAL) provides free advice and support for anyone who wants to apply for Universal Credit, through its Help to Claim service. This may include assistance with checking the benefit is right for them and any support needed up to receiving their 1st correct payment. Help is tailored to the individual and available, face to face, over the phone:- 0800 144 8 444 and online through webchat and advice content:- CitizensAdviceLiverpool.Org.UK.  Any potential scams can be reported via the Consumer Advice on:- 0345 404 0506 and the Police via Action Fraud on:- 0300 123 2040.

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