Praise for team working to keep young people out of the criminal justice systemThe Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Norfolk has praised the county’s Youth Offending Team (YOT) for its work tackling youth crime and supporting vulnerable children and young people.
Meeting with members of the YOT, PCC Lorne Green welcomed its focus on prevention and early intervention, crediting it with playing a key role in keeping the county safe.
The YOT is a partnership of local experts from policing, health, children’s services and probation whose aim it is to prevent children and young people from offending, helping them to restore the damage caused by their actions and achieve their potential.
PCC Lorne Green provides annual funding of £114,000 to the YOT to fund activity to reduce the number of Norfolk youngsters entering the criminal justice system for the first-time, re-offending and receiving custodial sentences.
During his visit with members of the YOT based in Great Yarmouth, the PCC heard that the number of Norfolk youngsters entering the criminal justice system for the first time reached an historic low last year. Over the last three years, there has also been a steady reduction in the number of young people receiving custodial sentences.
“Norfolk’s approach to tackling youth crime has delivered some real successes in recent years and, as a county, we can be very proud of the work being carried out by the Youth Offending Team to help and support young people at risk of, or already involved in, criminal activity.
“Since coming into office, I have put a countywide emphasis on prevention – of crime, of victimisation, of offending. But vulnerability plays such a role in all of these things that prevention doesn’t work without a certain amount of cure.
“Addressing the root causes is absolutely essential and, where children and young people are concerned, their needs are often multiple and complex. It is right and proper that, where we can, we seek to divert vulnerable young people from the criminal justice system and address their needs elsewhere.
“It’s been a privilege to meet the people supporting our young people with issues such as confidence and self-esteem, education and access to work or training, mental and physical health, healthy relationships, substance misuse and knife crime. It’s also been enlightening to speak with some of the young people whose lives are being turned around as a result of that approach. For my part, I was moved by the witness of these young people now on the road to a happier and more productive future.”
Claire Winchester, Area Manager for King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth units at Norfolk YOT, said: “Norfolk Youth Offending Team is committed to helping young people achieve their full potential and lead pro-social lives by providing support and positive activities. Partnership funding is central to our provision. Recent activities such as sailing trips and drama workshops have resulted in some of our young people going on to achieve things they never thought possible. This brings not only better outcomes for individual young people but for our communities too.”
The PCC was keen to stress that it is not an easy time for those involved in youth criminal justice, with organisations like the YOT making significant achievements despite ‘challenging circumstances.’
“Cuts in public sector budgets have led to cuts in services, including those working with and supporting our young people. If the needs of children and young people aren’t met, crime – at best driven by boredom and at worst exploitation – finds a window of opportunity," added the PCC.
“Nationally we’re becoming more and more aware of the realities of criminal exploitation of children and young people, and their involvement in drug crime and violence. Locally, it has never been more important for organisations to work in partnership to pool resources and expertise and ensure the right support is in place at the right time.”
Last month, the PCC announced the start of six partnership projects aimed at tackling serious violence in Norfolk by preventing the exploitation of young people by criminal gangs. £700,000 of funding for the projects – in which the Youth Offending Team is a key partner – was secured through a successful bid by the Norfolk PCC Office to the Home Office’s Early Intervention Fund.
Those projects include:
- working with schools to raise awareness of the dangers of child criminal exploitation amongst students, parents and teachers
- forming a specialist team to identify and provide support to those at risk of exploitation and their families
- and providing mentoring to vulnerable youngsters to build confidence and skills, raise ambitions and help them onto an alternative path.
“I personally believe we have no higher duty than to do what we can to enhance life chances for young people across the county," said the PCC. “Helping our young people to thrive and achieve their potential ultimately benefits us all - not least as it has a key role to play in keeping the Norfolk of now and the future safe.”