By Adam Simmonds
In setting out to make Northamptonshire the Safest Place in England, one of my top priorities has been to create the Safest Generation of children and young people. We have therefore embarked on a ground-breaking programme of work to protect children, reduce youth crime and ensure children and young people are kept out of the criminal justice system.
Our Safest Generation work is about taking our heart and passion to change lives for the better towards action. We don’t want to repeat more generational cycles simply being observers and ‘fire fighters’ with the reactive attitudes that currently exist. We want to understand how to change a generation and the next generation. To be able to do this, we need to understand more.
Too much time is currently spent by youth offending teams on interventions for offenders rather than on diversion or preventative activity. Too many young people are still being dealt with formally through the court system unnecessarily for low level matters, when they could be far more effectively intervened with outside of that arena, in a way that is more time and cost efficient but most crucially, more effective at preventing further offending.
We also know that youth offending is often a symptom of negative life experiences of not growing up in a safe environment, which drastically affects young people’s life chances and ability to achieve their potential. We recognise therefore that to take a generation out of crime, we need to create the Safest Generation.
Our Safest Generation work is now delivering change through seven key work streams:
- Further developing our data analysis and understanding of youth crime related issues: Significant research has been undertaken with key partners to match youth crime data with other key information to identify the key vulnerabilities as predictors of both offending in the first instance and also subsequent reoffending
- Developing more effective and integrated police decision-making to youth crime: We are working with senior police colleagues to reshape their service delivery model to ensure all young people with low-level offending are directed into the local Prevention and Diversion Scheme to ensure the most appropriate and timely response is being undertaken
- Improving the evidence base for the effectiveness of our youth crime interventions: We have appointed the Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice to deliver an evaluation of our local Youth Offending Service Prevention and Diversion Scheme, to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions
- Breaking the cycle and improving the response to inter-generational issues of crime: Our work with children of offenders is producing key information which we are able to share with local community rehabilitation companies and children’s services to ensure support is prioritised
- Further development and involvement of faith based and community organisations: Through our Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, we are investing into these sectors to achieve our three priority outcomes of reducing violence, anti-social behaviour and substance misuse. All of our potential partner agencies go through the Championing Change Business Academy programme that has been developed in collaboration with the University of Northampton, to equip them with the skills and knowledge to evidence the positive impact that they are having on people and their communities
- Meaningful and effective engagement and involvement of young people: Young people are critical to the shaping of what we do. They can tell us better than anyone what the issues they face are and what needs to be done. We will continue to build on our consultation work that has included areas such as Online Safety and Intimate Relationships
- Specialist support services for children and young people: Brokered with children and young people within the county, our new Voice: Children and Young People specialist service will allow us to support young victims and witnesses of crime in a more effective manner
I am extremely excited by this programme of work, which builds on the progress we have already made since the creation of Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commission. The journey we are embarking on will ensure Northamptonshire’s children and young people are given the support and infrastructure they deserve in order to become our Safest Generation.