Reachable moments in custody
The VRU is trialling a new scheme which sees youth workers sent into custody suites to offer timely and tailored support to young people affected by gangs, violence and criminal activity.
The service, delivered by St Giles Trust, is running in Coventry for 12 months and involves youth workers engaging with young people at an opportune moment, either whilst in custody or a short period afterwards. This period is known as the “reachable moment” and is when the young person identifies as potentially vulnerable and looking for or requiring support.
Youth Workers will work in partnership with West Midlands Police offering practical, emotional and 1-2-1 mentoring to young people and their families, whilst in custody and after being released back into the community. Young people will be supported to identify and achieve alternative aspirations and set new goals . They will be encouraged to establish lifestyles away from criminal activities, gang involvement and violence.
In light of the Covid pandemic, contact and support is being delivered digitally/remotely. Face-to-Face engagement is only taking place in situations of most risk/vulnerability.
The VRU is supporting young people in Wolverhampton, Coventry and Birmingham who are nearing the end of their sentence within a prison or young offender’s institute. The aim is to help them make their transition back into society as successful as possible. The project looks to provide support in the form of accommodation, finance, employment, mental and physical health and social and emotional issues.
A significant proportion of the young people who enter the criminal justice system have a wide range of pre-existing vulnerabilities and have experienced significant trauma, which can be compounded by time in custody. This programme looks at all of the vulnerabilities the person may have, with a view to mitigating and supporting them so they avoid re-engaging with harmful situations or returning to custody. This could take the form of training, counselling, food parcels and domestic abuse packs. The projects run until 31st March 2021.
Parenting Peer Support
The VRU is developing a 2 year trial which will see parents with children in the criminal justice system support other parents with a child who has committed an offence or is at risk of doing so.
The sessions are to be held in informal settings in local communities and will be run outside of office hours to make the scheme more convenient.
There will also be an online element to the support package.
Parents with children in the youth justice system had indicated that they sometimes found it difficult to relate to professionals who have traditionally offered this kind of programme. The new scheme aims to make the support more accessible by creating safe spaces for parents to share experiences with one another and to learn from each other.
There is a long-term aspiration of identifying, upskilling and empowering parents in the network to become leaders and facilitators of sessions which will increase capacity and sustainability for the project.
Speech and Language Needs
As of January 2021, the VRU has been working with the NHS via Speech and Language Therapist to help raise awareness and develop resources for professionals. Research shows that 60% of young offenders have some form of Speech, Language and Communication Need (SLCN) sufficient enough to affect them on a day-to-day basis (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, 2008).
This includes difficulties:
• Understanding what is said to them
• Putting their thoughts into words and expressing themselves
• Maintaining concentration to a task or conversation
• Interacting appropriately with others
These difficulties can significantly impact upon access to education, healthcare services e.g. mental health, employment and the criminal justice system and last throughout adolescence into adulthood perpetuating the disadvantage cycle across generations.