£4.6m project to deter Edinburgh's next generation of gangsters

Network of peer mentors to provide positive role models for most at risk kids

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
The mentor scheme is the latest gang-busting initiative

A ground-breaking project to deter future generations of gangsters bringing misery to the streets of Edinburgh has been unveiled.

The £4.6m project will see a network of mentors - themselves reformed offenders - take youngsters under their wing to turn their lives around.

High-risk kids as young as 11 already running drugs for gangsters on tough housing schemes will be targeted in the initiative.

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The Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention Service will be run by charity Action for Children with money from the National Lottery Community Fund.

It will be rolled out in January for some of the most at risk youngsters after being hailed a success in Glasgow.

Operated in Glasgow since 2013, the ground-breaking initiative saw just four of 49 young people reoffend by keeping them free from the clutches of underworld bosses.

“I’m delighted that Edinburgh has been chosen as the next city to benefit from the service. I’m convinced it will have a really positive impact on turning some of our most vulnerable young people’s lives around,” added Cllr McVey.

“The council has worked hard with police, schools and other partners to support people out of the criminal justice process and this will significantly build on our efforts.”

A roll-out will initially see the project delivered in Edinburgh from the New Year, with Cardiff and Newcastle to follow from April.

One previous study found 71 percent of young people who used the service were kept out of secure care for at least six months during involvement with the programme – including a number deemed “high risk” by the children’s panel.

In 2017/18, analysis showed that by diverting four ‘high risk’ young people from secure care, the project saved more than £500,000 for Glasgow taxpayers over a six-month period.

“The role of the peer mentors cannot be underestimated"

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said: “By working with young people on the cusp of organised crime we can offer them an alternative to being drawn into a grim future of violent criminality by unscrupulous criminals who seek to exploit them and treat them as an expendable commodity in a bid to evade the law themselves.

“The role of the peer mentors cannot be underestimated and by working with the young people and their families, the service has shown the positive opportunities that are available to the young people that can allow them to prosper.

“Organised crime knows no borders, and nor should good ideas. The roll out of the service to other parts of the UK with support from the National Lottery is tremendous and deserved recognition of the success that Action for Children has achieved to date.

“Not only is the service helping to divert young people away from serious organised crime, but it can deliver financial savings to hard-pressed public services to the benefit of all our communities.”

One typical case saw a boy fall into dealing drugs for gangs on the housing scheme where he grew up aged only 11.

He progressed to become a gangland enforcer before finally falling foul of the law and finding his way to the intervention scheme.

Now 19, he lives with his girlfriend and has a full-time job in a kitchen away from the bad influences that derailed his life.

Action for Children Director for Scotland Paul Carberry said: “There are many young people in our communities who are caught up in organised crime.

“We are not talking about gangs or group of kids hanging about the streets fighting with each other, we are talking about organised crime, serious activity which has a real devastating effect on our communities, particularly the most vulnerable communities.

“We recognise the need to give young people alternatives, we need to get them into employment and get them the right support and help.”

Senior police chiefs also backed the project, run through the Scottish Government’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce.

"Serious organised crime has a significant impact on the lives of children"

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: "Serious organised crime has a significant impact on the lives of children and young people, and is a blight on our communities across Scotland and the UK.

"The funding from the National Lottery Community Fund is welcome and will allow all the partners involved to continue the extremely important work of diverting young people from becoming involved in any form of criminality. The Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service is integral to this."

The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Fund committee member Stella Everingham said: "This is life-changing National Lottery money reaching into communities and putting young people at the heart of decisions that could affect the rest of their lives.

“As the National Lottery prepares to celebrate its 25th birthday next month, the Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service is a great example of one of its many success stories.

“I am delighted that Action for Children and its partners will now be able to roll this service out UK wide so that many more young people can thrive."