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AITC working with Sussex Police to turn young lives around

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Albion in the Community has been supporting our local communities since 1990, but it is a new initiative from the charity that is having a big impact in helping young people turn their lives around.

Switch is a new mentoring programme being offered by Albion in the Community (AITC) for care leavers aged 16 to 25 years old who have been identified as most at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of crime.

Launched in January this year with funding from the Violence Reduction Unit through Sussex Police, AITC has been able to help more than 20 young people through difficult times.

Martin Schooley has been working on the charity’s community inclusion work since 2002 and is ideally placed to assess its impact: “The programme sees violence and criminality as a preventable consequence of a range of factors, such as adverse early-life experiences or harmful social or community experiences and influences.  By getting alongside young people and helping them to think through their behaviours and lifestyle we are able to encourage and empower change and help them take positive steps forward as they leave care.”

Referrals come from Sussex Police or a social worker and an AITC coach meets on a weekly basis with the young person to work through an informal curriculum based on the five ways to wellbeing, a framework that considers personal behaviours, appreciating yourself, getting through difficult times and achieving goals.

Martin, who has been one of the mentors on the programme explains more: “We are young person-led and allow them to talk about the things that they want to talk about. We are here to listen and give them the confidence to make the right choices for their circumstances.

“Because we are meeting in outdoor settings, we have been able to link our mentoring with physical activity, providing one to one fitness sessions or kick abouts in the local park. Supporting the emotional and physical wellbeing.”

Young people in the programme receive one hour of support a week over a period of 24 weeks. This support can also include cooking lessons, talking about relationships, or supporting them to access medical appointments.

Detective Chief Inspector Vanessa Britton of Sussex Police, who launched the initiative with Albion in the Community, said: “We know the process of moving from a young person into an adult is a vulnerable time for care leavers and that many support services fall away at this point leaving them at risk of crime or criminality.

“This programme offers invaluable support to young care leavers, safeguarding them from harm and giving other options other than a life of crime.”

One young person who has benefited from the programme is Dominic (his name has been changed to protect his anonymity).

Dom was involved in county lines, which is the practice of gang members from major cities recruiting vulnerable children as drug dealers in their local community. He was caught dealing drugs and has an outstanding charge of robbery and is currently awaiting trial.

When Dom was referred to the programme by his probation officer he was very reserved and distrustful but quickly opened up and developed a trusting relationship with his AITC coach. He has shown a good attitude to learn, reflect on his past behaviour and has identified that he wants to be a painter and decorator.  He has recognised with help from his coach that he needs to gain his English and Maths GCSEs in order to progress with his life and has been receiving tuition from AITC so that he can complete his exams.

Dominic is grateful for the support he has received: “It’s been really beneficial for my well-being and I’ve learnt many things about how my brain and my emotions work that I never knew before. I’ve got a clearer idea of what I want to do with my life now.”

Since its inception, the Switch programme has seen a huge demand for support and help for some of the most marginalised young people in society.

Martin reflected on the success of the programme: “When they see I’m in an Albion tracksuit it’s an ice breaker, it helps me open a dialogue with them. No matter what situation they are in, I’m there to show them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and they can get through it.”

To find out more about the work of Albion in the Community visit: www.albioninthecommunity.org.uk or follow them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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