Data released by the Youth Justice Board has revealed that Wigan Borough’s new way of working with young people is having a positive impact. The borough now has fewer 10-17 year olds entering the youth justice system than the rest of the North West, with a 34% reduction since 2014. Wigan Borough has also seen a lower re-offending rate than the average rate for England.
The new approach has involved working with young people at risk of offending to address the trauma, mental health difficulties and behavioural difficulties that have led to young people getting involved in crime in the first place.
Paul Bedford is a youth justice worker at Wigan Council and has worked with young people at risk of offending for over ten years. Paul is in no doubt that a focus on the young person’s wider needs is essential to help reduce offending levels
Paul says, ‘Staff in the youth justice service now specialise in either ‘high risk’ or ‘lower risk’ cases. I’m a ‘high risk’ worker, which means I work with young people who have a higher risk of re-offending or committing more serious offences. ‘High risk’ cases are more complex, but there are fewer young people in this category, so this means we have more time to focus on the individual cases and give the young people the more intensive support they need.
‘Our service is also a lot more flexible. In the past young people would have been expected to come out to meet us, but now we have a number of bases across the borough, which means we can go out and meet young people in their own community. The new structure has also brought us closer to other services for young people, so we work in teams with staff who run young people’s social and support groups, for example, which can be really beneficial if someone we work with is struggling with isolation, a lack of confidence or being bullied.’
Young people are also encouraged to go along to a new attendance centre at weekends, where they can use a gym and sports facilities, learn new practical skills and take part in workshops and discussions to help them build their confidence and think about their futures.