Colleges are teaming up with a dedicated team of youth workers to improve community safety and reduce the risk that young people may be drawn into a life of crime.
Essex Youth Service is completing 24 hours of detached youth work with young people of college age each week for 40 weeks in Harlow, Chelmsford and Colchester.
The Community Capacity Building (CCB) Detached Youth Work Model sees members of the wider community being trained to work with young people in their neighbourhood.
The work is led by qualified youth workers who bring volunteers together from the community, schools, college, faith-based groups, voluntary youth clubs, charities and housing providers.
The project has received £63,700 funding as part of the Violence and Vulnerability Programme established by Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and partners across Essex. The programme funds projects to reduce the risk of young and vulnerable people being groomed into a life of crime and help those affected by gangs to take the steps to leave.
Once trained, the detached teams are equipped to disrupt gang activity and drug dealing.
They engage with young people and educate them about the unseen dangers of grooming and exploitation by exposing the realities and dispelling the perceived attraction to being involved in gang life and drug dealing.
Between mid-September and the end of October –
• Working with youth workers, students have identified their main areas of concern as personal safety, knife crime, drugs, bullying and pressure around their studies or fear of failing. Youth workers completed door-knocking in the local area to find the main concern of residents is young people hanging around the town with no purpose, with a lack of activities for them to engage in. Drug use and homelessness was also highlighted.
• In another community staff have been working closely with Zone Wardens and police in the town centre to identify hotspot areas where students may be congregating. Youth workers are rotating their sessions around different days and times to identify group activity. The detached team is also liaising with staff at the colleges who have expressed concerns about young people being exploited and groomed. Youth workers are also working closely with Essex Police to promote the Money Mules campaign, which links to exploitation.
• Further work involves youth workers liaising with colleges to identify issues arising from rivalry between two local gangs which is spilling over into college life. Links built with the police have also identified cannabis and other drug use by young people in two identified areas. These will become locations where the detached youth work will start taking place.
Julie Auger, Youth Services Manager at Essex County Council, said: “The college outreach project is enabling the youth workers to take our community capacity building model into open spaces where detached work can have a crucial role in supporting and safeguarding young people in the community.
“The project has the capacity to take back our streets from those who seek to manipulate, groom and harm young people. We aim to flood areas where young people do not feel safe with professionals and residents working together to turn unsafe places into areas young people can access without fear.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “We are working hard in Essex to make our communities safer and are well ahead of other areas of the country. We have already created a dedicated Unit to coordinate and tackle concerning activities and have invested in a range of initiatives for young people at risk.
“We want to stop the vulnerable being drawn into a life of crime and help all our communities be safer.
“By investing in programmes like this and working with partners across the county we are reaching out and tackling the root causes of gang activity while also robustly dealing with those who commit offences.”
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