East London youth offenders are to be offered work experience in top businesses as part of a government initiative to reduce reoffending.
Hackney, Lewisham and Croydon are among the 29 local authority areas included in the programme. The “Transforming Youth Custody” scheme, launched on Monday, was developed through a collaboration of the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board.
The launch saw the MoJ and YJB outline key developments, including one project, titled “Turn Around to Work”, set up to provide 10 to 17-year-old offenders with work experience and mentoring opportunities.
The two public bodies also revealed that extra resources would be allocated towards finding accommodation for the young people and supporting those with alcohol or drug addictions.
Sam Ball, Regional Director for London East at Crime Reduction Initiatives, a charity and leading UK provider of rehabilitation services, spoke to ELL about the effect the initiative may have: “Opportunities to work with big businesses can be rare for the young people we work with, many of whom are marginalised due to the difficult circumstances they face. It can only be a positive thing if they can have access to the same opportunities enjoyed by so many other young people in this city.”
“At this early stage, it’s difficult to predict the impact this will have on reoffending rates in east London and further afield, but initial pilots are demonstrating encouraging results.”
The most recent statistics released by the MoJ show that juvenile reoffending has been an increasing problem for the government, rising from 33.4 per cent of reoffenders in 2002 to 35.7 per cent in 2012. In the same period, adult reoffending rates have dropped to 24.9 per cent.
The 2012 statistics reveal that Hackney, Lewisham and Croydon all have higher levels of youth reoffending than the UK average, with Croydon recording the highest at 47.1 per cent. Hackney’s rate was 40.6 per cent and Lewisham’s, 39 per cent.
The St Giles Trust, a charity which works closely with ex-offenders, is one of the businesses offering placements. A spokesperson said: “A stable job reduces the likelihood of someone re-offending by one third and young people with a criminal record often encounter many barriers when they try to get a job. Increasing the likelihood of them doing so will bring positive benefits for everyone.”
“Transforming Youth Custody” has also enlisted top businesses such as Premiership Rugby Clubs, Greggs and Lloyds into their work experience programme.
By law, young offenders are obligated to disclose their criminal history on applications for vacancies. They may be subjugated to either enhanced or standard checks, with the former enabling employers to access additional information about criminal convictions.
A source from the Jobcentre spoke about the problems young offenders may face: “It would be down to the individual company whether they wanted to employ the ex-offender… It all depends on the nature of the job…Companies are currently under no obligation to accept them.
If successful in reducing rates of reoffending through education and mentoring, the scheme may be rolled out nationally in the future.