Scottish success story was no quick fix - Paul Carberry

The pandemic may sometimes feel like the only news story in town, but 2020 has also seen Action for Children roll-out our award-winning Glasgow-based Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service to Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Cardiff.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP with Paul Carberry
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP with Paul Carberry

In 2019, we secured funding of around £4.6m from the National Lottery Community Fund to build on that project’s success in Glasgow and to take it to other parts of the UK. Before this project came into existence, there was a recognition that organised crime was a problem you could not just arrest your way out of. In Glasgow, a collaboration between the council’s social work department, Police Scotland and Action for Children resulted in this project, the first of its kind in the UK, being created.

Many of these young people we support are heavily embedded in organised crime, growing up in families where it has been a generational thing. For them, it isn’t a quick fix. They require a prolonged period of work and have previously refused to work with other statutory services. We recognise the need to give young people alternatives, we need to get them into employment and get them the right support and help.

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At the heart of this support, is our use of ‘peer mentors’, many themselves former young offenders, to support young people. The peer mentor works directly with the young person to gain trust and learn about their trigger points, crime patterns and family constructs, while a coordinator works with families to gain their support. Many of these families are pro-criminal, meaning it is crucial that the coordinator can build and develop trust with the young person, allowing them to be open to seeing and trying another way of life.

Paul Carberry is the Action for Children director for Scotland.

Also central to the project’s success is a partnership approach. In Glasgow, that’s been with the council’s Health and Social Care Partnership and in Edinburgh it’s been with colleagues at Edinburgh Council, with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government a constant across both sites. In both Newcastle and Cardiff, we’ve worked closely with the local authorities as well as Northumbria and South Wales Police, respectively.

The partnership approach is central to its success and it has yielded impressive results since the project launched. A study from Glasgow City Council found that 71% of service users are kept out of secure care for at least six months during involvement with the programme – including a number deemed “high risk” of entering secure care by the children’s panel. It also showed that 66% of young people involved in the project have made demonstrable improvements in their offending behaviour. Finally, it found the project’s work in keeping four ‘high risk’ of secure care young people within their community represented a cost saving to Glasgow City Council of half a million over a six-month period.

Sitting on Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Task Force, I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP, who chairs the taskforce, is a supporter of this project. I was delighted to have him join us in Glasgow late last year when we announced the funding for the roll-out and he’s been keen to hear more about our progress since. The ‘Divert’ strand of the taskforce, which I am pleased to chair, has the objective of diverting people from becoming involved in Serious Organised Crime and using its products, and this project is an important part of that work.

With recognition of these efforts both domestically and at a European level – it won the overall ‘Excellence’ award at the European Social Services Awards in 2019 - this project is a Scottish success story. Now, it is playing a significant part in improving the life chances of vulnerable young people in other parts of the UK, as well as here in Scotland. That is something to be celebrated.

Paul Carberry is Action for Children’s Director for Scotland and chairs the ‘Divert’ stream of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce

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