The social sector has long been a strong advocate for taking an ‘asset-based’ approach to young people at risk of/or involved in crime, and not simply seeing young people as either a potential ‘victim’ or ‘perpetrator’. Youth charities (big and small) see themselves as agents for change within communities and among young people. They play an important role in advocating on behalf of young people as well as empowering them to have a stronger voice.

Hannah Hughes described the work of her employer, The Phase Trust—a youth organisation based in the West Midlands, who have been using Youth Investment Funding to develop and increase their open access and detached (outreach) youth work provision with some of the most marginalised, disadvantaged and disengaged young people in towns and villages bordering Birmingham. Many of whom are at known to be at risk of being exploited by organised criminal gangs.

By providing an ongoing presence within these communities Phase Trust have developed trusted relationships with these young people, who they are able to support on a range of different issues (e.g. substance misuse, familial problems, and school issues) and offer support to be more self-aware in the decisions and actions they take.

The Phase Trust initially set up early preventative youth crime work in schools, but they quickly had to move on to addressing child criminal exploitation work due to the high number of young people (as young as 10-12 years old) who are at known to be at risk of being exploited by adults and at times their own peers.

This led them to working on a ‘navigate’ programme with Barnardo’s and CHADD that is primarily focused on addressing child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation.

Hannah said: ‘We (Phase Trust) are in it for the long-game…. remember they are children. They are not always actively making the choice to be involved in crime. It is their experiences and their environment that has led them to this path. We need to help them find their way to a different path.’

One example she gave was of a young person seeking her help following an incident involving a rival gang from a neighbouring town. ‘Where can we go when you are not here, so you can keep us safe?’.

Sarah Hegarty described the Children’s societies 1-2-1 and group services which support young people who have been involved in, or are at risk of, criminal exploitation or child sexual exploitation or have come into contact with their ‘missing service’.

Read the full article about tackling youth crime by Karen Scanlon at NPC.