Ten years after MAC-UK was founded we got back out on the streets and talked to young people about the messages they want to send to decision makers.
Here, Dr Charlie Howard discusses what our team heard as they went out on to the streets to listen to young people:

"When I had a call from MAC-UK asking if I would like to be part of a team that was going to the streets to mark MAC-UK’s tenth birthday, I didn’t need to give my answer a second thought. The opportunity to go back to where it all started. And with young people. Yes please. And so a few of us met to shape up our plan. In true MAC-UK style, some of the team was late, one person had to leave early and it was pouring with rain. It made me smile. It was real. It was an honour. This was MAC-UK.

"And so, 10 years on from where we started and enabled by a young community member, we walked the Kilburn streets. Within 10 minutes we were in McDonalds. And I was totally unprepared for what awaited. “If you had a message for people in power” we asked,  “what would it be?”  The negativity was overwhelming. “There’s no point talking about that” one young person said, “nobody listens”. “Anyway” they asked “where has MAC-UK gone?” “You used to be here and now you’re not” “we trusted you and now you’ve gone”.

"Ouch. This went straight to my core. There was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. My colleagues with lived experience felt it too. And all of the complexity of setting up an organisation that wasn’t there to meet its own ends came back to me. Where are the mainstream services to work with these young people? Where are they? They aren’t with those young people. That much was very clear. It was depressing. And it was a disgrace. But one too big for a small charity to tackle alone.

"I stood down as CEO of MAC-UK because I cared too much not too. I knew that MAC-UK couldn’t solve this problem on its own. Youth Violence is something that requires all of us. Yes, all of us. And it absolutely requires young people. I started to feel trapped by the thing I had set up to work alongside young people. It was clear that it was needed more than ever. And it needed careful and considered leadership. But I needed to be somewhere else. On the same journey, but in a different seat.

"Everything I have learnt about youth violence has come from young people and from trying to encourage others to listen to them. And I’m convinced that Politics is a big part of the problem. If we are to solve this issue, it has to be enabled by Politicians, not owned by them. If I had tried to do MAC-UK without young people it would never have happened. It took 12 months for young people to trust that I wasn’t a police officer. The process was long and slow. And it didn’t fit neatly into Political terms or funding cycles. Instead those were a big part of the problem.

"So as I wish MAC-UK a happy birthday and congratulate all of its young people, staff, volunteers and partners, I do so with a plea to the leaders around us. I often get asked how they can best support MAC-UK’s work. And the answer is simple. You can make it not be needed anymore.

"How? By always having young people in the room when you shape up solutions youth violence. By letting go of some control. And by remembering the word TOGETHER. This is how we will be telling a different story 10 years from now. And how we won’t be wishing MAC-UK happy birthday in 2028."

Please remember to spread the word about the need to ask young people and read and sign our petition here

Quotes from young people we spoke to:
"Because they don't know anything else they just do road."
"The police lock up a lot of people and they are not understanding of where they are coming from. We are not coming from a lot or nice environments and the police don't understand that. They just want to lock people up."
"Unfortunately because of limited resources and funding and times the opportunities is not always there and there is usually a timeline which doesn't allow that to get to that level."
"They are only reached when society requires them to be reached.
When they are reached they're further pushed away."
"Young people see the uniform of the policeman rather than the person which doesn't help."
"The youth don't really have a lot of positive role models and voices out there for them to look up to. Obviously there is some but the ones that are highlighted are not necessarily giving positive messages."
"People don't really listen to young people. When I come across people it is more people I can't relate to my background and I be staring across to them and they be looking shocked so I kind of feel like what's the point. That's why they can't really work with me either as I feel like we don't even speak the same language."
"A lot of people don't really have the time. How you gonna tell me you're coming into my life to do something for me and you've got to offer is about 20mins of your time per week."
"Growing up in East London there is a lot of poverty and there is not really a way young people can see to get out of that situation. 
In higher position like a different class, it's like a different world to these people."
"There's a lot of young people who have a getting up and getting it in sorts of ways. There's a strong DIY mentality in today's society."
"There is not enough of those police officers that show they understand what has led to those young people to commit crime."
"Listen to what the young people want."
"They've got to trust young people. There's no communication and no trust."
"If there is boredom you have nothing else to do but chill on the block."