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Young offenders are being offered extra support and advice when involved in court proceedings in an initiative designed to cut re-offending.

The partnership project between Blackburn with Darwen Youth Justice Service and Blackburn Magistrates’ Court embraces a problem-solving approach which endeavours to make the court appearance more young-person friendly, but also backs this up by offering support in a range of areas.

Now, it is being held up as best practice for other schemes across the country, having won the Children and Young People Now Youth Justice award in 2016.

Early intervention

With a focus on early intervention to prevent further offending, the initiative offers help and support through a multi-agency approach which sees the Problem-Solving Court (PSC) working alongside a range of partners (including those working in offender health jobs and probation jobs) in the East Lancashire area.

When a young person appears before the Youth Court, the Problem-Solving Approach comes into play in the period between conviction and sentence.

It gives young people and their parents the chance to tackle the problems that may be affecting them by putting them in touch with organisations that can help.

These include GO2, the local substance misuse project; Nightsafe, which supports young people with accommodation needs; the Supporting Families Project, for parents who are unemployed, with children displaying anti-social and offending behaviour, and problems with school attendance; New Directions to support young people back into education, training or employment; Fast 4wd Project, which supports adults with alcohol or substance misuse problems; and Carers’ Service, for partners, parents, family members affected by another person’s addiction.

Motivated to change

The initiative, thought up by Helen Meanwell who was deputy justice clerk for East Lancashire, was inspired by problem-solving approaches in adult courts but tailored for youths, parents and other family members attending court.
“Young people – while waiting in court – are probably the most motivated to change at any time in their lives and it seemed a shame we didn’t do anything for them,” she said.

Making a difference 

Figures suggest the project is a success. The PSC has played a big part in bringing down re-offending rates, with 83% of young people successfully completing their sentence without re-offending up to January 2017, a rise of 70% since September 2014.

David Fleming, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Service Leader for Youth Justice, said: “All the partners and teams involved in the Blackburn with Darwen Problem Solving Court deserve all the recognition the programme is getting nationally. They have all worked incredibly hard to make this a success for the young people involved and make a difference to their lives.”

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