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Southend best at reform of young offenders
SOUTHEND has been rated the best in the country for preventing youngsters from re-offending.
The Youth Offending Service, launched in 2000, has been commended for its innovative work – especially in the face of tight budgets.
The findings were released in a report by the Inspectorate of Probation, a government watchdog, which looked at some of the borough’s young offenders as excellent case studies.
Julie Fox, assistant chief inspector for the Inspectorate, said: ”What we saw was very high quality in terms of what they do, to try and stop the young person offending again.”
Praise was heaped on Southend’s trail-blazing “triage” programme, designed to keep youngsters out of the criminal justice system.
It means when a young person is arrested for the first time, instead of being prosecuted, they may be allowed to work with the service.
They must then address their behaviour, work with parents and the youngster may even carry out work within the community to make amends.
Of 700 under-18s dealt with, since triage was launched in April 2009, only 63 have re-offended.
James Courtenay, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “We are getting in there at the right time and it’s making a difference. It allows the kids to be put back on the right track and it improves the community and the town by reducing crime. I find it amazing that it’s so successful.”
The service also has a street engagement team, which patrols on Friday and Saturday nights, talking to youngsters, often with the police.
The inspection of the service included a survey filled out by 18 offenders who said they felt they were less likely to re-offend – 15 of whom said their life had become better through the service.
One of the youngsters said: “They got me funding for a gym membership, now I have something to do instead of getting into trouble.
“I haven’t been arrested ever since I joined the service.
“I got a college placement. I’ve even been offered a job when I turn 18.”
Another added: “I felt the service was closure for myself. The people were very helpful and let me talk about my experience, feelings and views.”
Supt Andy Prophet said: “The team has worked tirelessly for many years with first time young offenders, and their families, to help them understand the consequences of their actions and change their behaviour.
“The results have been truly exceptional.
“The reward is also recognition of way Southend Council, Essex Police, Essex Probation and others work together in this important area.”