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A mentoring service for young people identified as at risk of criminal exploitation is providing positive educational and work experiences in a bid to show what their future could hold.
The Pathways Out Programme is one of a number of projects being delivered by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN), in partnership with organisations across the county, to tackle serious violence and, in particular, the threat and harm caused by County Lines drug activity.
The 12-month pilot, co-designed by the OPCCN and Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), guided by experts including Norfolk’s Youth Offending Team, is delivering 1-2-1 mentoring support to young people identified as being vulnerable to grooming and exploitation by County Lines gangs.
Since it launched in April last year, 46 young people aged 17 and under have been referred to the project, which receives its referrals from schools in Norwich and Great Yarmouth – two areas of Norfolk where MAP’s youth work shows intervention with young people around County Lines is needed.
“My head is in a lot better place. I’ve got goals now, I’ve got a purpose.” - Young person on Pathways Out project.
Mentors work with the young people to build their confidence and help them learn new skills by engaging in activities they enjoy or in which they have an interest. By increasing their motivation and ambition, mentors are supporting the young people to become more resilient to exploitation and encouraging them to pursue alternative economic futures.
While some of the young people simply welcome the chance to talk with someone about the challenges they are facing and seek information and advice, for others the support they need is more practical – such as help with college course applications or finding training or work experience. The project has also helped the young people get involved in activities they might otherwise have been unable to access – such as organised outdoor activities, martial arts clubs and art classes.
“For one student the impact was seen immediately in the way he reacted to those around him making poor choices…I really think this could be pivotal in him staying in school.” - Feedback from school pastoral manager.
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Lorne Green, said: “Prevention is key to keeping our county safe, protecting our young people from criminal exploitation and stopping them getting involved in County Lines.
“County Lines and the serious violence that goes hand-in-hand with it are not exclusively policing issues; they will not be solved by enforcement action alone.
“Projects like Pathways Out are pulling together the skills, knowledge and experience of experts across our county to not only identify and safeguard our young people, but also show them that their life story is still being written, that they have options and that their future can be so much brighter.”
MAP’s Community Youth Work Manager, Will Mills, said: “As an organisation we believe in education and early intervention. This pilot project has given us the opportunity to work with those most at risk; identifying these dangers, and helping to educate.”
While the Home Office funding for Pathways Out is due to cease at the end of March 2020, MAP will continue to provide similar mentoring for young people across Norfolk alongside their education.
“We take a positive and solution-focussed approach to our mentoring work; we find out their strengths and support them to grow in the areas that they feel hold them back”, added Will.
“I’m happy to say that in many cases this has made a real difference to some individuals and we will certainly continue to offer this work for more young people across Norfolk.”
Pathways Out is funded through the OPCCN bid to the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund. That fund, launched in late 2018, made a total of £22m available to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) around the country to support the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy through targeted early intervention and preventing activity.
Information on the other Norfolk projects funded through the Early Intervention Youth Fund can be found at www.norfolk-pcc.gov.uk/eiyf