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Boris Johnson and Nick Herbert visit 'pioneering prison'

18 November 2010

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert MP, today visited a pioneering young offenders unit that boasts one of the lowest rates of re-offending in the UK. 

Mayor and Nick Herbert meet Heron inmates

Launched by the Mayor one year ago as part of his Time for Action programme to tackle youth violence, the Heron Unit, at Feltham Young Offenders Institution is the UK’s first dedicated resettlement unit for 15 -17 year olds and has a low re-conviction rate of 14 per cent, compared to the 78 per cent re-offending rates for young offenders nationally. In the past year two ex- Heron boys have secured university places and over the last 6 months 70 per cent have gone on to further employment, education, or training.  This model has proved so successful that the Mayor is now rolling it out across London for young offenders.

Heron recognises and encourages motivation to change by providing intensive additional help to young offenders who demonstrate a willingness to turn their lives around. A key part of this is providing each boy with dedicated key workers called ‘resettlement brokers’ who deliver seamless support inside the prison and especially after release. The brokers devise personalised programmes to help the boys address issues that might lead to re-offending and help put them firmly on the right track. The Mayor is expanding funding for resettlement broker support to all young offenders leaving custody in London, including women.

Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I’m proud to have delivered the first resettlement unit for young offenders that is totally dedicated to breaking the vicious cycle of re-offending.  Heron Unit provides the intense support young offenders need to turn their lives around and make a fresh start. I’m pleased that a year after it opened it has one of the lowest re-conviction rates in the country. We know that the key transition points such as release from custody back to the community are critical which is why we have ensured that Resettlement Brokers work with the boys before, during and after their release, to ensure a continuity of relationships and support. I’m now funding resettlement support for young offenders across the city and hope it will really drive down youth crime and make our communities better places to live in.

“We all have a part to play in tackling youth crime and getting these young people into jobs remains a great challenge.  We are working hard to engage employers and I encourage businesses to get involved and to help us offer these young people a positive second chance.”

Nick Herbert, Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice said: “The Heron Unit is an innovative approach to tackling crime and an excellent example of breaking the cycle of reoffending. Offenders must be punished but they must also be properly rehabilitated to address the problem of repeated reoffending.

“The 14 per cent reoffending rate is much lower than the average and shows what can be achieved. The current success of the Unit is a credit to the hard work of prisons, police, councils, youth offending teams and other frontline services.  This is a great example of successful joint effort and I hope that we can build on this programme.”

At the visit today the Mayor and the Minister met young offenders on the unit and ex Heron boys to hear about their experiences.

A former Heron young offender said: ”The resettlement brokers really pushed me to do something positive with myself. At the end of my stay I could go once a week to college – which really motivated me to study and do well. The staff help you with everything from putting together your CV, to dealing with any family issues you have. Now they call me once a week and see how I’m doing which I really appreciate, especially  if I’ve got anything on my mind I need help with. Since leaving the unit I’ve done work experience and I’ve started university. I think I can do something with my life now and I’d like to have my own business.” 

Following the success of Heron (part of project Daedalus in the Mayor’s Time for Action plan) a number of organisations have been awarded London Development Agency / ESF Youth Offer  contracts (in total £9 million until May 2012) to deliver the expanded Resettlement Broker provision across London. These organisations include: Nacro, St Giles Trust, Catch 22, Serco and London Probation Trust. Project Daedalus is the first “Payment By Results” programme to address resettlement and reducing reoffending.

The following young offenders will now all be allocated a Resettlement Broker and resettlement support over the next two years:

- All young male offenders in London aged 15 to 19 on remand or serving custodial sentences who are due to be released into the community (including Cookham Wood)

- Young women offenders serving custodial sentences (HMP Downview and Holloway)

- All 15-17 years serving community orders

- Young offenders aged 18 & 19 on community orders

Resettlement broker Michelle Williams said "Providing the young people with specialised education, employment and holistic support whilst in custody, helps us manage that difficult transition between custody and the community. I've really enjoyed seeing the boys blossom and develop into young men who really want to do something positive with their lives. “

The establishment of Heron has been delivered through the London Criminal Justice Board (CJB), a partnership which brings together criminal justice agencies in London and the Mayor’s office. 




Notes to editors:.

  1. More information on Heron Wing: it has involved 132 boys during its first year. Targeted at boys in custody who are most motivated to change, it provides a 30 bed specialist unit, delivering intensive support and a resettlement model supporting young offenders on release into education, training or employment.
  2. An extra 2,800 young offenders will receive Resettlement Broker support over next 2 yrs with the Mayor’s expanded funding.
  3. For further information on Nick Herbert or Feltham please contact Jen Wood at the MOJ - or 020 3334 3518


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