Taking on gang culture

8th October 2010 at 01:00
Glasgow has taken inspiration from the US with two schemes to help young people in the city

Glasgow is set to import two schemes from the United States in a bid to improve life for its youngsters.

A diversion project for gang members which began in Boston is to be extended to the whole of Glasgow by March next year. And early next year, the city will trial a New Orleans-inspired intervention programme aimed at parents who have mistreated their children.

"It's amazing how little input you need to turn a family around," said Helen Minnis, a senior lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at Glasgow University.

The New Orleans intervention for "maltreated" children and their families uses everything from substance misuse programmes to psychotherapy to get families back on track, after children under five have been taken into foster care. A central tenet of the programme is that the biological parents must take responsibility for their actions.

Speaking in Glasgow earlier this year, Charles Zeanah, one of the architects of the Jefferson-based programme and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Tulane University, said: "If it's just everybody else's fault, it's hard for anyone to have confidence the child will be able to go home and be safe."

The foster carers' relationship with the child is also considered vital and they are given support to bond with the child.

Professor Zeanah continued: "These children can't wait six months, 12 months or 18 months, while their parents address problems, and not have the immediate presence of a loving, caring adult. They must have that every single day."

Meanwhile, the Ceasefire project, which has been running in part of Glasgow since 2008, has succeeded in almost halving violent crime in the north and east of the city by giving youngsters alternatives to gang membership, Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Violence Reduction Unit, told educational psychologists.

The project begins by inviting 40 or 50 known gang members to visit Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The youngsters, who are welcomed into the public gallery of one of the courts, hear from specialist surgeons that they do not have time to fix babies with cleft palates because they are "busy stitching up you guys". They hear from a mother whose son was murdered, a mother whose son was badly assaulted and a murderer.

The police make it clear they know who they are and where they live.

Mr Carnochan said: "The police tell them Strathclyde Police is the biggest gang they have ever seen, with 10,000 members. If they don't change, they will be stopped and searched, their TV licence will be checked, their car licence - in other words, they will come down on them."

At the end of the presentations, the gang members are challenged to do something differently and are given a freephone number. If they choose to make the call, an action plan will be devised for them within seven days. So far, 500 youngsters have got in touch.


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