London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is investing £3million to more than double the number of intervention coaches based in police custody and who work to divert young people away from violence.
Since April 2020, more than 300 young people aged 10-18 who were arrested and taken to custody suites in Camden, Enfield and Redbridge have been helped and supported away from violence by intervention coaches.
The VRU now plans to boost capacity and expand the ENGAGE programme to provide greater support and access to opportunities for young people by investing £3m over the next three years. Increased investment will work to embed youth intervention coaches in custody suites in four more areas – Brixton, Croydon, Lewisham and Wembley.
The ENGAGE programme involves specially trained youth workers – who are not police officers – embedded in custody suites. They work closely with young people aged 10-18 following their arrest at what is known as a ‘reachable moment’. They work to prevent violence and support young people with ongoing, long-term support and guidance that can lead to education, training, apprenticeship and employment opportunities.
The VRU-funded programme sits outside the criminal justice service and coaches are employed by the local authority and entirely independent of any police investigation.
ENGAGE sits alongside the DIVERT programme, which involves custody intervention coaches working with young adults aged 18-25. VRU funding has meant coaches are now in place across all 12 of the Met’s Basic Command Units, allowing greater capacity to support more young people away from violence. Over the last two years, coaches have helped nearly 1,900 young adults with ongoing support, information and guidance, while almost 450 directly took up opportunities in education, training or employment. Others continue to be supported while on remand or in prison.
The VRU has committed to continue funding the programme across the 12 BCUs for the next three years.
Today, Lib Peck, Director of London’s VRU, joined DCS Lee Hill, head of the Met’s Violent Crime Taskforce, and Camden Councillor Nadia Shah at Holborn Police Station to hear directly from custody intervention coaches and young people about the ENGAGE programme and the impact it continues to have.
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said:
“We believe violence is preventable, not inevitable. Our approach to tackling violence is rooted in prevention and early intervention, and is focused on reducing it both now and in the long-term.
“Young people have told us about the importance of a trusted, adult relationship and that’s why we’re so invested in supporting youth workers and boosting capacity across London, because the role they play can be literally life-changing.
“We’re increasing investment to expand the ENGAGE programme across four other areas of London so that more specialist coaches are able to make crucial interventions at what is a critical moment in a young person’s life. We’ve seen the impact it has and it’s really important we make that connection and ensure young people know they can access both ongoing support and positive opportunities.”
Detective Superintendent Brittany Clarke, of the Met’s Violent Crime Taskforce, said:
“Intervention is key in diverting young people away from violence, and we know that our custody suites are an opportune moment to give support to a young person when they need it most.
“It has been fantastic to hear first-hand the experiences of the youth workers and the young people who have been supported. ENGAGE gives children an opportunity to turn their lives around and we hope this will be the catalyst for change.
“Violence cannot be solved by policing alone – this initiative is a prime example of agencies coming together with a shared goal of steering young people away from crime and onto a more positive path.”
Abdulkadir Arshe, ENGAGE youth and community worker, said:
“Our goal with ENGAGE is to provide a service to young people whilst they are in custody through teachable and reachable moments and let young people know we are there to help and support.
“We look to complete plans with our young people but also include the whole family who also have an input as this recognises the whole family approach. We offer various interventions with young people which range from completing peer pressure work to gang awareness work. When appropriate we can also signpost young people to other agencies such as sexual health if there is a need and also look for innovative ways to support family if they are in crisis or further work is needed.”
A 16-year-old who had used the ENGAGE programme said:
“I had been really struggling without a laptop to complete and stay on top of my education and college work. I am extremely delighted to have received a brand-new laptop that I can keep and use further in my development and education. I have aspiration of going to university to study Actuarial Science as my major. I am so pleased to have a wonderful keyworker who has supported me throughout my time of need and went above beyond to make sure I stayed college and do well in my education.”
Councillor Nadia Shah, Camden’s Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, said:
“Our goal is to make Camden a place where every young person feels safe and can succeed. We’re proud of what we have managed to achieve so far, but we know more can and should be done to reduce violence affecting young people in Camden and improve access to a wide range of opportunities and support for our young people. The ENGAGE programme is an important part of this work and we’re delighted not only to have helped pioneer this successful programme here in Camden but to see it continue and expanded across London.”
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