GREATER Manchester communities - including in Oldham - blighted by knife crime and serious violence will be given a greater say on what can be done to prevent incidents happening.

A serious violence action plan will build on the work of a violence reduction unit (VRU) that has helped police seize 1,732 weapons from the streets in the last year.

The unit comprising police officers, health and education officials and community workers was set up after knife crime nearly doubled in the city-region between 2015 and 2018.

Since then, the number of hospital admissions for knife-related injuries has fallen by 16 per cent, while 941 more people have been arrested for knife offences compared to last year.

Greater Manchester Police, with the help of the VRU, has recovered more than 1,000 knives from sweeps of public stashes, amnesty bin collections and intercepted packages.

But while enforcement remains a key party of addressing the issue, the new plan announced by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will focus on early intervention, education and prevention.

And it will be informed by people living in areas most affected by violence and where inequality is most stark.

Ibrahim Ismail, from the self-help voluntary group Bolton Solidarity Community Association, says such a plan has been a long time coming.

“Empowering communities to solve the problems themselves is something we’ve been crying out for,” he said.

“At the end of the day we live in these areas, there is no-one with more of a vested interest than us.

“To see people turn away from the path they were on is just enlightening, and it can be done.”

More than 3,000 visits have already been paid to schools and youth groups across Greater Manchester to try and educate and inform them about the risks of carrying a weapon or getting involved in violent crime.

Knife offences in schools rose from 61 to 127 between 2015 and 2018, with almost a quarter of all victims and offenders being teenage boys and men aged 15 to 19.

City-region mayor Andy Burnham says he has stood by his promise to reinstate school-based officers where they are needed as part of a wider pledge to have named police and community support officers in every ward in Greater Manchester.

But he said: “Enforcement can only take you so far and that isn’t what is at the heart of this plan.

“It’s about building trust and working with people, rather than doing to people.

“If a community makes a call for something that it wants, it’s going to be all about how we can deliver and respond quickly.

“It’s not a token gesture, this is about saying communities hold the information that [GMP] needs and they hold the solutions that will actually enable them to tackle serious violence.”

The plan will involve £500,000 being spent on piloting community-led approaches to tackling violent crime in six areas across Manchester, Salford, Tameside, Oldham, Bury and Bolton.

A further £4.5 million will be shared amongst the community safety partnerships working in each of the Greater Manchester boroughs to develop other schemes.

Youth justice services will also receive extra funding for violence desistance and prevention programmes.