Programme launches offering 'radical' approach to reduce youth reoffending

Fiona Simpson
Friday, January 29, 2021

A new programme providing what organisers are calling a "radical blueprint" to reduce reoffending in the youth justice system will begin working with young people in London next month.

WIT chair Sophie Humphreys has implemented similar strategies at Pause. Picture: Pause
WIT chair Sophie Humphreys has implemented similar strategies at Pause. Picture: Pause

Whatever It Takes (WIT) is co-founded by social policy leaders including Josh MacAlister who was recently named as chair of the government’s Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England. 

The pilot scheme will launch in Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond with funding for further programmes already secured.

These will be rolled out across the country after a formal launch later this year, WIT said.

The scheme aims to tackle “deep-seated” problems behind rising gang violence, knife crime or county lines drug running involving young people and children. 

Official figures show that more than two-thirds of children released from custody go on to re-offend within 12 months. 

Experienced "guides" - who, according to organisers, will be recruited from the best professionals in teaching, social work, police, health and youth offending - will work alongside each child on the WIT programme. 

Each will focus on a small group of four or five young people over an 18-month period, WIT added.

The scheme is based on the Breaking Cycles Model which focuses intensively on the aspirations of a child or young person, finding the “hook” that enables them to connect with the experienced WIT Guide and keep them involved. 

Similar schemes have already been used successfully at Pause, founded in 2013 by WIT’s chair Sophie Humphreys, which works in 35 locations across the UK to break the cycle of women having multiple children taken into care.

In Kingston and Richmond, WIT is teaming up with the borough’s Youth Offending Service, provided by Achieving for Children, to deliver the programme for 20 young people. 

Michael Steel, chief executive of Whatever It Takes, said: “WIT will bring real change to the lives of children and young people who have been caught up in crime. 

“The pilot programme in Kingston and Richmond is just the start and we have already brought together an amazing team of WIT guides from a range of backgrounds who share our strong desire for radical reform of the support available for young people in the criminal justice system. We are confident that they are ready to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help young people build better lives for themselves, as well as prevent some of the damage to communities and cost to the taxpayer of crime.” 

Ian Dodds, director of children’s services at Achieving for Children, said: “We are really excited to be leading the way in youth justice services and system change. We know how difficult it is for young people - especially those who have experienced trauma in their lives - to break free from the cycle of crime. The WIT programme will allow us to work intensively with these children and will help improve outcomes for children, families and communities.”

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