Lottery cash to cut offending
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
By Rachael Hook
PRISONERS and “young people who don’t have many options” in Wickford can now get support to turn their lives around.
Staff from Beyond Youth, based in Station Court, Station Approach, will now be helping to cut re-offending in the Basildon district after securing £80,000 from the National Lottery.
Lottery funding: Gill Burton Emma Morris, Pam Dunne, Louise Voyce and Curtis Watson
The community interest company has to date worked with more than 400 people across Essex and London and it claims a 77 per cent non re-offending rate, more than three times the national average.
Louise Voyce, 31, is director of delivery at Beyond Youth, and lives in Wickford.
She said: “We hope to work with police on community-based intervention in Wickford and Billericay.
“Individuals learn their behaviour from people around them and often those that go on to offend have been subject to negative influences – we want to replace these with positive influences.”
The team works with those who have less than six months until they are released from prison.
At present, they work in three prisons, namely HM Prison Portland, in Dorset, HM Prison Ashfield, near Bristol, and HM Prison Send in Surrey.
Mrs Voyce said: “We show prisoners what they can do to bring their life forward and we work with them for 12 months giving a complete package of support.
“We also help young people doing badly at school – we will try to make sure that they are not progressing onto more serious crimes.”
Peer mentors work with 14 to 18-year-olds through schools, pupil referral units, police and youth clubs as well as other groups.
Mrs Voyce said: “They are there on a voluntary basis – they are not made to do it.
“It’s not about us saying what’s right, it’s about us showing them the other options.
“At the end of the day they’re just young people and lots have something missing in their lives.”
She pointed out that their courses have a 95 per cent completion rate.
Curtis Watson, 24, now works with the group as a mentor deliverer, working in the community with young people and former offenders since coming out of prison himself in December 2010.
“When I was in prison I got offered to join the group – none of the others had helped me,” he said.
“I gave this group a chance and I liked it as they helped me a lot from the outset.
“I think it dealt with issues that I never wanted to deal with.”
Mr Watson, who lives in south London, said of his work: “I think it helps having me giving advice now as I’ve been through the system that a lot of young people go through.
“It is a lot easier to listen to someone that has been there, as they know you are not lecturing.”
He added: “I think it’s good that the service is coming to Wickford where there are a lot of young people who don’t have many options.
“It will be good to get them involved in the group – our support and connections will help them.”
Peer mentors: These young people work with 14 to 18-year-olds at schools, referral units and youth clubs