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Home help for teenage inmates

Youth workers 'befriend' offenders from Wales in English prisons

Young welsh offenders doing time in English prisons are being eased back into education with the help of youth workers from their home towns.

The Assembly government is funding two pilot schemes that involve the youth service and inmates from Denbighshire and Bridgend at young offenders prisons in Stoke Heath, Shropshire, and Ashfield, near Bristol.

Youth workers "befriend" the teenage prisoners, who may be struggling with being so far away from home, and encourage them back on to the straight and narrow.

Many of the young prisoners were lost to the education system, often increasingly absent as their criminal behaviour worsened.

It follows figures releasedJlast year revealing that three-quarters ofJyoung offenders from Wales are being sent to English institutionsJbecause of a chronic shortage of places in Wales.

At any one time around 190 10 to 17-year-olds from Wales are sentenced or remanded to secure accommodation, but there are only 50 places in the country.

The youth service personal support workers are seen as crucial to changing their behaviour. However, a lot of the success is being put down to the young person's contact with someone Welsh whom they can relate to.

"Almost all the young people have had access to opportunities in custody but lacked the support to make effective use of them," said a government spokesman.

Personal support workers offer pastoral and practical help. Success rests on building a voluntary relationship. In particular they helped newly-released young people navigate statutory services for jobs, housing and health.

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