Knife crime is the top concern for young people at schools in Eastbourne, Bexhill and other across the county.
At a time when the national news is dominated by high-profile stabbings, children in East Sussex say that ending knife crime is their top priority, according to a recent poll.
Seventeen schools across the county took part in the UK Youth Parliament 'Make Your Mark' consultation, casting more than 12,000 total votes.
The East Sussex schools that took part were: Beacon Academy, St Richard's Catholic College, Ark William Parker, Chailey School, Claverham Community College, Gildredge House, Hailsham Community College, Heathfield Community College, Peacehaven Community School, Priory School Lewes, Ratton School, Robertsbridge Community College, Skippers Hill Manor Prep School, The Cavendish School, Uckfield Community Technology College, and Willingdon Community School.
Wealden District Council organised an event last Friday so that students could take part in workshops to explore the top five topics: knife crime, mental health, homelessness, equal pay for equal work and end period poverty.
Christopher Varrall from REBOOT was chosen from the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner to run the workshop on Knife Crime.
He said: “It was great to have the opportunity to speak to young people in Sussex about the dangers of carrying knives and the repercussions that follow. Many of us underestimate just how tuned in young people are to the issues society faces, so it is refreshing that this consultation has given this age group an opportunity to raise their concerns.
“The REBOOT programme, which launches on the April 1 this year, will bolster diversionary activities for young people across Sussex and strengthen our community safety partnerships. It will give police and partners the opportunity to engage positively with under 18s at risk of committing serious violence and those who have already been involved in low level criminality.
“It will carry on giving young people a voice, deterring them from getting involved in criminality and protecting our most vulnerable.”
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: "Nationally and locally we are seeing increases in serious violence and organised crime groups with vulnerable young people being targeted and exploited to carry out their criminal biddings, including carrying knives.
"This is why I bid for funding from the Government’s Early Intervention Youth Fund and successfully secured nearly £900,000 to implement this programme across Sussex.
“Too often young people, many from challenging backgrounds, fall into the ‘wrong crowd’ and focus too heavily on the negatives in their life with no positive distractions. This then makes them prime vulnerable targets. Early Intervention and building trust with young people is key to preventing this outcome and will form the basis of the REBOOT model over the next year of funding.”
Adam Chugg, chairman of Wealden Strategic Partnership said: “This event achieved two very important things. Firstly, it provided local young people with a forum to express their views on the issues of greatest importance to them, with knife crime being one of their major priorities.
"Secondly, it brought the young people together with the key decision-makers and agencies who are best placed listen to their views and learn from them to make a difference. As a partnership, we believe such a collaborative approach, with the involvement of local young people, provides the best way for finding solutions for building a better, more connected community in the future.”
Hattie Pemberton, a pupil from Heathfield Community College said: "The workshop was well organised and informed. We had plenty of time to ask questions and to understand in more depth what knife crime actually was and recognise the hard work the police and other organisations were doing to stop this major issue.
"They gave us lots of information about knife crime but also where to go and see if we had any questions. We had great discussions which opened some very challenging questions."