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'I'm absolutely disgusted': Youth club founder hits out after Suffolk misses out on 'county lines' fund

PUBLISHED: 07:30 29 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:48 29 June 2019

Stepmother of Tavis Spencer - Aitkens, Helen Forbes, says she is 'disgusted' at the decision by the Home Office to fail to fund Suffolk police as they fight knife crime and 'county lines' drug dealing Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Stepmother of Tavis Spencer - Aitkens, Helen Forbes, says she is 'disgusted' at the decision by the Home Office to fail to fund Suffolk police as they fight knife crime and 'county lines' drug dealing Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The step-mother of Ipswich murder victim Tavis Spencer-Aitkens has added her voice to those condemning a Home Office decision to overlook Suffolk for funding to fight county lines drug dealing.

Helen Forbes and Neville Aitkens, Tavis Spencer-Aitkens' father and stepmum, started the youth club in the hope of rebuilding a sense of community Picture: OLIVER SULLIVANHelen Forbes and Neville Aitkens, Tavis Spencer-Aitkens' father and stepmum, started the youth club in the hope of rebuilding a sense of community Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

Helen Forbes is the co-founder of the new youth club at Nansen Road Baptist Church, alongside Tavis's father Neville Aitkens.

The club is the culmination of a year's hard work since Tavis was murdered, fundraising among concerned families in the area and working with the community to provide children with activities to stop them falling prey to, and end up working for, county lines drug dealers.

It was launched on the same day council leaders and Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, learned the county was being overlooked for a slice of a £100million Home Office fund, dedicated to tackling knife crime.

Ms Forbes said: I think it's absolutely disgusting.

Left to right: John Southgate, Helen Forbes, Rev. Peterson Anand, Neville Aitkens and Amanda Southgate Picture: OLIVER SULLIVANLeft to right: John Southgate, Helen Forbes, Rev. Peterson Anand, Neville Aitkens and Amanda Southgate Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

"Our youth club is still reaching out for funding. If I had gone down this route of asking for funding from the government I would still be reaching out for funding.

"The PCC and police know we are in trouble with county lines - even the judge in Tavis's case said that this was something waiting to happen.

"When we opened our doors for the youth club we never expected there to be so many children. I had 15 children turn up to register with us.

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"One parent told me it is a shame this club wasn't here before, because it might have made the difference for someone like Tavis.

"I can't say if it would have made the difference, but I know the authorities weren't here before and they're not here now. We are on our own."

Mr Passmore has also hit out at the decision to split the £100m between just a handful of police forces nationwide, arguing that rural areas such as Suffolk are just as vulnerable to this crime as urban areas.

The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) group, which comprises the PCC and council leaders, is to write to the Home Office to express its anger.

"Somehow we have to make sure the Home Office understands that if we put the money into urban areas only, the big concern I have is there will be displacement into rural areas like Suffolk," Mr Passmore told the group.

"I think they are completely misguided - we didn't get a penny."

The SPSL group already provides £500,000 of funding for a two-year scheme to tackle urban gang violence and county lines, due to last until October 2020.

Latest figures suggest there are 28 county lines operating in Suffolk - 18 of which are running in the west of the county.

A Home Office spokesman said the Government was determined to tackle serious violence and is taking action to do so.

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