Scotland politics

Scheme helps teenagers avoid crime gangs

Unidentified teenage boy Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The project works to divert young people away from organised crime

A project in Glasgow aimed at diverting young people away from a life in serious organised crime has been given a £1m boost.

Over the next three years, the charity Action for Children (AfC) will work with 250 young people across the city.

They have been identified as being on the cusp of serious organised crime.

The charity said the scheme - the only one in the UK - had seen young people making "demonstrable improvements" in their offending behaviour.

The project works with teenagers aged between 12 and 18.

Organised crime

The charity is working with Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council as it aims to stop youngsters becoming drug dealers.

The scheme focuses on those who often start out in the trade as messengers and work their way up through organised crime groups.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The project aims to stop youngsters becoming drug dealers

AfC's Scottish director Paul Carberry said Glasgow was "leading the way" in developing a "Scottish success story".

"In my work at Action for Children Scotland, I see the impact of serious organised crime - families destroyed by substance abuse, parents indebted to loan sharks and housing schemes controlled by career criminals," he said.

"It is largely hidden from mainstream society while having a disproportionately high effect on the most disadvantaged, marginalised communities in our country.

"In Glasgow, this service is turning lives around and having a long-term impact on communities across the city."

'I'm tired of getting into trouble'

Kevin, 15 from north Glasgow, who has been supported by the project, said the project had made a big difference to his life.

He said: "Before, I wouldn't think twice about my actions and I'd keep on getting in trouble and up in front of children's panels.

"But the guys at the project have been great. They've made me realise there's a different way.

"I don't want to offend, I just didn't know there was another way - but Action for Children have really helped me find it.

"I now think twice about my actions as I'm tired of getting into trouble. I want to find a job or go to college, not just kick about with the people that kept getting me into bother."

A council review found 71% of young people who used the service were kept out of secure care for at least six months during involvement with the programme - including a number deemed at "high risk" of being sent to secure care by the children's panel.

It said two thirds of young people involved in the project had made "demonstrable improvements" in their offending behaviour.

The council said that by diverting high risk young people from secure care, the project represented a saving of more than £500,000 a year.

'A real difference'

That was calculated by deducting £1,562.50, the cost of providing the service for one young person for six months, from the £130,000 cost of housing a young offender in secure accommodation for the same period.

Police data for a sample of 22 young people supported by the service in 2015/16 showed a 31% drop in the average monthly offending rates compared with the previous six months.

The project began in 2012, and has so far worked with about 50 young people.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "This is a valuable project that is making a real difference to the lives of young people by diverting them from involvement in a range of criminal activity that could have a seriously detrimental effect on the rest of their lives. "