4 June 2024

Pilot diversion scheme empowering young adults

Desistance from crime, Diversion, Young adults

Julia and Jordan are key workers for the Devon and Cornwall pilot out of court resolution scheme, which has been in operation for the last 18 months. We recently spoke to Julia and Jordan and some of their clients about how this scheme is helping young adults to make positive changes in their lives.

From the outset, Julia and Jordan recognised that young adults require a distinct approach that responds to their entire lived experience. This is crucial as many of their clients have been affected by trauma, abuse, violence and deprivation.

Jordan explains, “Some of the young adults I’ve worked with have had significant adverse childhood experiences. Reading some cases, I’ve thought to myself, ‘How have you only just come to the police’s attention now?’”

Julia adds, “Most of the time, they’ve not really been given the tools to be an adult. There are very few people we see that haven’t been a victim themselves or let down by the system.

“One of the things that we would do more of with this age group is issue regular reminders of appointments. I find that if we see them more often then that momentum of change comes easier. If you don’t see them very often, other things take over and they can disengage from the process.”

Jordan adds, “I always try my best to keep the appointments as concise and practical as possible and not paper based.”

Having dedicated key workers means more attention can be given to each individual. Jordan believes that this allows him to take a much more active role in supporting his clients – even when he’s referring someone to other services.

“You’re not just this referral mechanism. You’re working with each individual to understand what they need.

“For example, I’m working with this young guy called Chris* who’s 21 and was arrested for self-harming in public.

“I asked if he wanted mental health support, which he did, so I made a referral. Within a week, I’ve been able take him over in person to meet his counsellor. Chris is now having up to 12 weekly sessions, which we’re able to access for him through the deferred prosecution scheme. If we hadn’t been able to get that, he’d probably be facing a four-month wait for therapy through the NHS.”

Chris was at a point of crisis, but he has found the therapy sessions hugely beneficial. He says, “I’d tried so many times to get help with my mental health, then it all came to a head. Being able to quickly get support when I needed it the most was really important to me. My counsellor actually listens and remembers things about me. I feel lighter after having a session with her.”

When a good relationship has been established, Julia finds that she can then focus on helping young adults to pursue their aspirations.

“When I started working with Peter*, he was depressed and had withdrawn completely from the community. We did an empowerment activity together, and it came out of this exercise that he had a particular talent and interest in video editing.

“We gave him a variety of tasks to help him develop his skills, including approaching a charity to offer to provide a video they could use to promote their work. For this project, he learned how to work on a storyboard and use video editing software. Peter completed the project and is now on his way to a freelance career in videography.”

Peter adds, “My life is much better, and I haven’t got a sense of guilt anymore. The deferred charge focussed on why I did what I did, why it shouldn’t have happened but also empowered me to move on and focus on my goals.

“I haven’t got a criminal record. I was given an opportunity to use this part of my life to become better, not for it to negatively affect me in the future.”

Jordan and Julia believe that having a personalised budget for each client makes it easier to offer tailored support and interventions.

Jordan explains, “I was working with a young person called Steve* recently who’d had a poor experience of mainstream education and was out of work.

“He was working with a bandofbrothers, which is another good service down here that provide role models and one-to-one mentoring. Steve wanted to get into labouring, and so he needed to do his CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme).

“I spent £13 to get him a train ticket up to the centre to do his initial assessment for a CSCS card. By the time he left the scheme, he had a bricklaying job on a site. That was all down to his strength and motivation and just spending about £13 with the personalised budget. That was enough for Steve to get across that line.”

Steve adds, “I was able to get my CSCS card through the Deferred Charge Scheme, which helped me get a job. It also meant that I didn’t get done for the offences, which would have made getting a job even harder.”

Julia and Jordan both speak effusively about how the scheme has empowered many young adults to shift to a pro-social identity. They share numerous examples of how the young adults they’ve worked with have improved their mental health, pursued careers and life goals, and made reparations to those affected by their actions.

Through the enhanced service, Jordan and Julia can support individuals beyond four months on a voluntary basis. Despite the clear benefits offered, shifting police officers’ perceptions of the scheme has been challenging at times.

“This is not a soft option. Young adults coming on to the scheme have to confront what’s causing them to commit crime and that can be quite tough,” Jordan explains.

Julia adds, “Our clients feel the weight of being under the deferred charge because the circles they’re moving in could lead them to reoffend or to substance misuse. That’s a challenge for them.

“But I let my clients know that it’s not always a straight line and to not disappear if they have a drink, for example. It’s not the fact that you’ve had a blip. It’s about making distance between the blips bigger. That’s progress.”

Ryan* is one of the young adult clients who’s been supported through significant setbacks on a voluntary basis.

Ryan explains, “My life has improved one thousand percent. I was drinking alcohol daily and using crack before the deferred charge. Through the deferred charge I was clean for eight weeks, then was made homeless and went back to it for a week.

“My keyworker didn’t give up on me. They contacted the right agencies and helped me with the food bank. I have been clean for three weeks again now. If I had gone to court there would have been a judge and a solicitor, but no one there after to help me with the addiction that led me to be arrested.

“It would be easy to go back to my old life, but I’m avoiding people and places that would take me back. I have support, and my keyworker for as long as I need her, to get on my feet properly.”

*We have used pseudonyms in this interview to protect each young adult’s identity