The call by Audit Scotland for there to be a greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention before young people enter the cycle of criminal behaviour (your report last week) is to be welcomed, and I am delighted to see the Scottish Executive's support for this position.
Investment in highly-targeted and effective programmes is essential to help young people in Scotland's deprived communities who are not in education, employment or training (Neet) those most at risk of entering a life of crime gain the key skills to find work or move into education.
At The Prince's Trust, for example, seven out of 10 of those engaging in our programmes go on to education, employment and training, and our xlerate with xl clubs, aimed at 14 to 16-year-olds who are underachievers, poor attendees or are at risk of exclusion, received glowing praise in an independent report last year.
This represents considerable value for money, given the cost of social exclusion which, according to our Cost of Exclusion report produced with the Royal Bank of Scotland, amounts to over pound;92 million each year, due to the cost of crime alone.
With one in five of Scotland's young people classed as Neet, one of the highest rates in the developed world, this is a tremendous waste of individual human potential and it is the voluntary sector, working in conjunction with the Scottish Executive and local authorities, that will be the key to addressing this challenge.
The reward is worth it. With research estimating the cost of a single Neet at pound;52,000 during his or her lifetime, and considerably more for those who drift into crime and anti-social behaviour, it makes simple economic sense to tackle this now, rather than storing up future social problems and costs.
The Prince's Trust Scotland, Queen Street, Glasgow