Children to be guided away from life of crime

Mentoring project with success rate of more than 70% in preventing reoffending expands into Edinburgh

Children to be guided away from life of crime

Millions of pounds are set to be invested in a scheme designed to divert children from a life in organised crime.

The project, Action for Children's Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention Service, is being launched in Edinburgh following its “astonishing” success in Glasgow.

Mentors with similar backgrounds and experiences work with young people known to be involved in serious criminal activity or on the cusp of being snared by crime gangs.

Background: Age of criminal responsibility raised to 12 in Scotland

News: Move to raise criminal age to 14 or 16 is rejected

Opinion: ‘I was a high-achieving pupil – and a gang member’

Related: School must stop excluding pupils, says former murder investigator

The Edinburgh scheme, funded by a £4.6 million lottery grant, will target approximately 80 young people identified as being at risk of falling into organised crime by police, care workers and schools.

It will use peers and youth workers as positive role models and examples of how to turn their lives around.

First launched in Glasgow in 2013, the award-winning project boasts a success rate of more than 70 per cent in preventing reoffending, according to Action for Children.

The charity's director, Paul Carberry, who also chairs an organised-crime taskforce, said the project had been successful in Glasgow because mentors were able to engage with at-risk young people who “don't trust the state”.

He said the involvement of the mentors – many of whom also have a past history of offending – was “absolutely crucial” because they were relatable and could engage the vulnerable young people.

Without the intervention the targeted young people were likely to end up murdered or in prison, he said.

"Because of their involvement in serious crime, families don't trust the state and the kids are trained not to co-operate in case they give any information," said Mr Carberry.

"One of the benefits of this approach is we actually get in the door and we work with the kids and build that trust.

"They recognise that we're there to turn the kid's life around."

Mentors and youth workers will offer intensive one-to-one support, peer mentoring, education and employment training to approximately 80 young people across the capital each year.

Edinburgh has been chosen for the first stage of a UK-wide rollout.

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