Let’s reduce reoffending – more young people in custody should get a second chance

Expanding the successful Divert scheme will mean that more young people in custody get a second chance in life and won’t end up in prison.

Divert offers young people a lifeline to avoid staying mixed up in crime, while gaining new skills and positive opportunities. However, the scheme currently only operates in two police stations, Brixton and Tower Hamlets.

In these stations, in the first few hours of being in custody, young people aged 18 -25 are visited by Custody Intervention Coaches from Divert who speak to them with the aim of getting them into employment, education, training and other positive alternatives upon their release.

Since last year when I first learnt about Divert, I have been trying to encourage the Mayor to recognise the long-term benefits of this intervention and expand it. I’ve asked several Mayor’s Questions, and have also publicly called on him to fund its expansion across London, so that more young people in custody can get a second chance.

Young people in London have had a raw deal as services have been stripped back and youth workers have lost their jobs. As a community – police included – we all need to work together and intervene at key moments to help steer people away from getting mixed up in criminal activity.

In March 2015, data from MOPAC showed that 47.5% of young people in London who got into trouble reoffended. Divert has worked with 192 people since 2015, helping 81 young people secure jobs or training and reduced the reoffending rate of those they had worked with down to 8%.

Divert is a programme thought up and run by police officers. At the moment it is funded by the Milestone Foundation, who rely on grants and donations, and there are plans to pilot the scheme in four more stations this year. The budget for the two schemes in Brixton and Tower Hamlets is £140k per year. The six sites plan has a budget of £620k per year but requires ‘sustained funding’ to keep it going indefinitely.

In response to questions I asked at the Police and Crime Committee, Inspector Jack Rowlands who founded Divert, replied that a London-wide roll out of this programme will cost £1.2million a year. All the scheme needs to operate, apart from staffing, is a modern police custody suite that has sufficient resources for consultation meetings. and all custody suites in London have this.

This intervention is clearly effective and is needed across London to do even more good work – as the programme’s team themselves have said, they are just scratching the surface so far.