Helping teens: the big initiative

06 December 2019

Neil Degg, managing director of The Training Hub, explains how his new – and free – project is inspiring young people to make better life choices.

Knife crime, gambling, gangs and bullying are big issues in society that many young people face, and preventative resources are absolutely vital steps in the effort to tackle these issues.

Let’s take the first two as an example: knife crime and gambling.

Knife crime and problem gamblers

Knife crime offences reached record levels, rising by 7% to more than 44,000 in the 12 months to the end of June 2019 in England and Wales (Office for National Statistics, 2019). Numbers could actually be significantly higher, considering the data excludes Greater Manchester Police, one of the biggest forces in the UK, because of a recording issue.

The reasons behind the continuous increase in young people involved in knife crime and serious violence is complex and multifaceted. Much has been mentioned about cuts to services, including the police, but we have to also factor in the ever-increasing number of young people who believe carrying knives is something they have to do. Lack of education around the risks and dangers is also a real problem.

Knife crime offences in England and Wales reached record levels and rose by 7% to more than 44,000 in the 12 months to the end of June 2019- ONS, 2017

Similarly, recent news reports suggest that much work is to be done assisting children and young people with gambling issues. With the opening of the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds last summer, the first of up to 14, there appears to be an understanding of the gravity of the problem. The report Young people and gambling by the Gambling Commission (2019) estimated that around 350,000 young people have been involved in gambling in the past year in England, Scotland and Wales.

With the recent increase in knife crime and the number of problem gamblers among young people remaining unchanged (Gambling Commission, 2019), it’s more than time to consider the resources available to help.

Education, training and support services can influence young people’s decision-making and behaviour. In response to this, a number of special projects are in motion, such as The Big Initiative, to help make a difference.

The report Young people and gambling estimated that around 350,000 young people have been involved in gambling in the last year in England, Scotland and Wales- Gambling Commission, 2019

So what is the Big Initiative?

The Big Initiative is the UK’s first cohort of free preventative online courses for young people and their families on subjects such as gangs, knife crime, gambling, bullying and self-harm. There are more than 60 courses so far and this will grow.

Currently, our courses fall into three main areas:

  • Free courses for young people on subjects such as knife crime, and gangs
  • Free wellbeing courses for young people on subjects such as depression and mental health
  • Free parental courses on subjects such as reflective practice and listing skills. (See How CPs can help overleaf for more examples).

The Big Initiative is the only dedicated platform that works hand-in-hand with leading experts in knife crime, gambling, eating disorders and so on, many of whom have backgrounds in SEND, teaching, childminding and child development. These experts bring free resources to ensure that young people and their families can access the support and guidance needed in life.

It’s all about helping people when help is needed, and equally empowering people to help others. It’s changing lives by educating young people on the dangers of key issues and consequences of certain actions, helping them deal with issues that could have a negative impact on their life, and empowering them to have an impact on their own social circle.

As the first project of its kind, The Big Initiative provides a catalyst for significant change. The potential for this type of preventive resource is enormous for young people across the UK and beyond.

Childhood experiences

The Big Initiative was born from my own childhood experiences, and a strong desire to give back to society. Born and bred in north-west England, my younger days were spent in a deprived inner-city area: Harpurhey, once named the most deprived neighbourhood in England. It remains one of the poorest areas in Manchester, although has recently received significant investment to generate improvement.

I was one of the young people at the time who felt that our only hope was to maybe turn to crime as we saw ourselves as being isolated from the chances that other young people had; there were few opportunities to make better life choices, which had a negative impact on aspects of my life.

Looking back years later, it finally hit me that what was missing at that time was empowerment, and contact with people who had the specialist skills to help me in those areas that I struggled with. I needed a support network.

Today there is certainly greater access to initiatives that aim to improve outcomes for children and young people.

Education, training and support services can influence young people’s decision-making and behaviour

The vision

In 2014 I established The Training Hub, which provides specialist training courses across the education and health and social care sectors. We bring online training to sectors that have been neglected over time such as fostering, children’s homes, leaving care and early years. The Training Hub provides face-to-face as well as online interactive training, including face-to-face training on knife crime and other relevant topics for community practitioners. It also sells additional support tools such as course-related handbooks and assessment tools.

For me, the ethos has always been to improve learning outcomes for the greater good while bringing every single expert trainer under one roof. We have a pool of more than 3000 specialist trainers, enabling practitioners to access quality online and face-to-face training in one place.

There is a real benefit from young people having access to preventative training courses

How can CPs help?

The goals of The Big Initiative align perfectly with community practitioners, placing importance on early intervention. Courses for young people at The Big Initiative include:

  • Knife crime and gangs
  • Gambling
  • Bullying  
  • Self-harm
  • Radicalisation

The parent courses are designed to empower people to be the best parents they can be. They include:

  • Reflective practice and listening skills
  • Autistic spectrum disorder
  • Bullying
  • Depression and suicide
  • Drugs and alcohol awareness

Young people taking back control

It was following the success of The Training Hub that I launched The Big Initiative for young people and their families. The majority of training in the UK tends to focus on the individuals who look after the young people, and rightly so. But I feel there is a real benefit from young people themselves having access to preventive training courses; to empower and strengthen communities to tackle social problems.

I have very strong views on the importance of providing exceptional resources to help people make better life choices, and my own experiences and challenges faced while I was growing up inspired me to create The Big Initiative; taking it from the Manchester suburbs to nationwide.

My aim is to take The Big Initiative global, and help vulnerable adults and children across the world; everyone deserves the best chance in life.    

Business owner Neil Degg is managing director of The Training Hub, and has also launched The Big Initiative.

To signpost young people and families to the service, visit The Big Initiative, currently at bit.ly/Big_I, where they can access more than 60 free online courses. The courses can be completed anonymously. 

Time to reflect

How might you make use of The Big Initiative to improve your practice and help your clients? Join in the conversation on Twitter at @CommPrac using #BigInitiative



Gambling Commission. (2019) Young people and gambling. See: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/Statistics-and-research/Levels-of-participation-and-problem-gambling/Young-persons-survey.aspx (accessed 13 November 2019).

ONS. (2019) Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019. See: ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingjune2019 (accessed 13 November 2019).

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