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Youth custody project reverses the fortunes of young people involved in violence

Posted onPosted on 27th Nov

Young people previously involved in knife crime have turned their lives around thanks to the help and support of a flagship Nottinghamshire custody mentoring project.

Since its launch in January the ‘U-Turn’ custody intervention scheme has supported 24 young people aged 16 to 26, arrested for various offences, and helped them to move away from crime and make a fresh start.

All 24 have stayed on the right side of the law since volunteering to join the U-Turn project and receiving intensive mentoring, with none of them re-offending since engagement.

The custody intervention scheme is funded by the county’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and delivered by Nottinghamshire charity The Inspire & Achieve Foundation (IAF)

It sees two full-time mentors operating out of both Nottingham’s Bridewell and Mansfield’s custody suites.

The mentors support young people who have been arrested, help them overcome their personal barriers, and put them on the path to a new life.

The 24 young people supported by the scheme to date include a gang member who, as a result of the U-Turn programme, progressed into formal education within two weeks of the intervention starting.

Twelve of them have progressed into education or training, four have attended a bespoke six-week course designed to affect change in offending behaviour, two have gained employment and another two are now actively seeking employment.

The scheme has helped 12 of the young people to find suitable accommodation and most of the 24 have benefitted from help with registering for benefits, attending GP/probation appointments or with finding positive activities.

The U-Turn project mentors, who have lived experience of the problems facing the young people, encourage participants to take part in positive diversionary activities such as going to the gym, making new friends, going on training courses, self-reflecting and chatting while walking, or action planning over a coffee.

Mentors are able to build up a rapport, establish trust, and provide much needed advice and support on a range of issues such as housing, budgeting, substance misuse, mental health, healthy relationships, employment options and education.

Dave Wakelin, Director of the VRU, said: “U-Turn allows us to deliver critical intervention in police custody at a point where many young people reflect on the reasons why they are there.

“These mentors have a real practical understanding of the issues affecting these young people and know what it is like to be caught up in the system.

“What U-Turn provides that other projects may not is ongoing support post-release from police custody to ensure that the person being helped continues to get the support they need. There is a significant wrap-around service of support that many people in custody need and are happy and eager to take. This is what makes U-Turn so unique and is giving them the results they deserve.

“I’m really proud of the team. It’s not an easy environment for them but they did not stop working or engaging throughout the pandemic and have always been there for their clients. Their achievements demonstrate the quality that all intervention projects should strive for.”

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, chair of the VRU Board, added: “This is a project that is literally turning around lives. The fact that the 24 participants involved in this scheme so far have not reoffended speaks volumes about the value and quality of this provision.

“We know that second chances really can make a difference and these figures are something to be hugely proud of.

“We never said we could end knife crime and violence overnight but through sustained investment in holistic prevention we will eventually turn the tide of violence on our streets and create futures and opportunities that will drastically change the statistics.”

Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “It’s really heartening to see the progress the county’s VRU and U-Turn project are making as part of a huge collective effort being undertaken here in Nottinghamshire to tackle and reduce serious violence, including knife crime.

“Breaking the cycle of violence can be extremely difficult for young people, especially if they feel doors have been closed on them.

“The U-Turn project puts them in contact with people who have been in their shoes and turned their lives around and gives them access to the opportunities they may need to make a fresh start.

“By understanding the situations in their lives that have led to their actions, we can provide them with the support required and promote better outcomes for our young people.

“The U-turn project is a really worthwhile intervention that could prevent further violence on the streets of Nottinghamshire by helping people overcome barriers to a more positive lifestyle and it’s a great example of our shared commitment to improving lives to prevent crime, and supporting the most vulnerable members of our communities with bespoke, life-changing, interventions.”

Andrew Wainman, mentoring manager at The Inspire & Achieve Foundation, which delivers the U-Turn project, said: “Many services within this sector are funded towards victims of crime and often young people are misunderstood so U-Turn focuses on the perpetrator and also the young people who maybe a perpetrator but are also victims too in many cases.

“The project allows young people to engage with experienced staff and, uniquely within our team, staff with a ‘lived’ experience. These mentors provide support and trust, working to achieve what may be to some day-to-day skills/experiences but are to our young people impossible aspirations that suddenly become real and achievable goals.

“The service has many success stories of young people achieving their goals such as getting into education, training and employment. For others, it maybe just getting out of bed and meeting their mentor and a walk and talk or gym session.

“Many young people we support have had to return to the environment/community they became vulnerable in so having a mentor is a lifeline for a more positive future.”

The scheme is flexible, with no strict offence criteria for referral, and mentors will try and help anyone in the age range who is not in education, employment and training and needs their support.

Although initial contact will normally be made by the U-Turn mentors when an individual is in custody, referrals can also be made if a mentor has not been able to see someone during their time in custody.

The feedback from those who have already engaged in the scheme has been overwhelmingly positive.

A young female participant said: “I was in a room with four walls, no one had any faith in me and I thought I was a failure. Then I worked with IAF and started the reflex course, I didn’t like to be in a classroom environment.

“I didn’t know the crimes I was committing had a ripple effect on more people than just the victims, so when I learned that, it put my mind on a different path. I realised what kind of life I wanted and I knew this was the start of a new life and time to chase my dreams. The course showed me what my true potential was.

“I learned how to communicate with other people, which I was not good at before. After the course I stopped what I was doing all together and I got myself into college to focus on Math’s and English. I got into making music because it makes me more relaxed and it is a way to express myself. Hopefully, I will make progress for my future.”