London youth crime project Divert included in £17m fund

UK
Tom Rolt (right)Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Tom Rolt (right) said young people coming into police custody needed help to turn their lives around

A south London project has been recognised by the Home Secretary for helping young people at risk of becoming career criminals.

Sajid Javid visited Divert in Brixton on Saturday after announcing a £17.7m fund over two years for 29 groups across England and Wales.

Divert offers support to young people when they have been arrested.

Tom Rolt, from the group, said a lack of support for people in police custody was “a hole that needed to be plugged”.

Mr Rolt is a custody intervention coach at Divert’s Lewisham base, helping 18 to 25-year-old detainees to find employment and training opportunities.

Mr Rolt, 29, said when he was growing up in Greenwich he mixed with people who “weren’t pleasant” and was “grateful” to have steered clear of the path he sees some detainees on.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Home Secretary Sajid Javid (centre) and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick visited a project in Brixton

“There are a lot of young people that have bags and bags and bags of quality – but the environment they grow up in, it suppresses them into one direction,” he said.

“My motivation is to turn those lads and those young women around.”

From November 2016 to July 2018, Divert supported 342 young people. Of these, 8% have since reoffended, which is 22% lower than the average for adult offenders across the capital, the project said.

So far this year there have been 20 murder investigations prompted by the deaths of teenagers in London.

Announcing Divert as one of the recipients of the Early Intervention Youth Fund money, Mr Javid said the “root causes” of serious violence need to be tackled.

He added: “As well as taking immediate action to curb knife crime, we need a longer-term approach to prevent our young people from getting drawn into a life of crime in the first place.”

“This money will fund a range of projects that focus on diverting vulnerable youngsters and those who have already offended away from crime.”

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Media captionDanny explains why he chose to participate in the Divert scheme

Plans for an Early Intervention Youth Fund were set out in the Serious Violence Strategy, which was published in April.

Ten of the projects chosen for the fund are London-based.

Insp Jack Rowlands, who founded Divert, said he hoped the project could expand to become “effective and sustainable throughout the UK”.

“Divert has already proven over the last three years that using police custody as a teachable moment diverts young people away from crime,” he added.

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