Mayor’s £1.5m gang exit scheme rolls out across the capital

02 February 2016

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, today launched London’s first city-wide programme to help vulnerable young people to turn their backs on gangs and transform their lives, with specialised one to one mentoring and support.

From today, under the new £1.5m London Gang Exit programme, any young Londoner identified as either a gang member or vulnerable to being exploited or recruited by gangs could be referred to receive intensive specialist support from trained mentors. This could range from professional mental health or substance misuse support, to help in finding a job, or a new home. Young people can be referred by teachers, police officers, care workers, and bodies such as the prison and probation services.

Almost half of young Londoners in a recent survey said gangs, or groups of people hanging around, is what makes them feel the most unsafe in the city, with 11 per cent of those questioned saying they feel under pressure to join a gang*. This comprehensive new approach will offer young people a path out of these gang networks, while driving down crime and victimisation in the capital.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “I want every young Londoner to be able to feel safe on our city’s streets, and since 2012, we’ve made huge progress in driving down gang crime. But there is still more to be done and this new London-wide service will give young people involved in or at risk from gangs the chance to turn their backs on violence and crime and transform their lives.”

For Temi Lateef, a former gang member in his twenties, a spell in prison gave him the opportunity to access these services and turn his life around. He was referred to the criminal justice charity Only Connect, a partner in the London Gang Exit service. His rehabilitation led to him wanting to help others in the same way, and he now works with Only Connect as a Frontline Co-ordinator in the same London communities that he grew up in.

Temi says: “For many of the young people growing up in London, gangs offer networks and an opportunity to earn money. It’s important that any services working with these young people offer a positive alternative; a supportive community and pathways to legitimate employment. Only Connect helped me to become a success, and now the London Gang Exit service will help young people all over our city build positive futures for themselves.”

Today, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh went to meet Temi and hear his story. He said: “Gang crime is falling, but we know that stopping it completely is about more than just policing – we also need to help those who want to exit gangs and leave violence behind. We want to see this kind of support available across the whole of London, and this new programme provides a consistent service to every corner of the capital for the first time. By working in partnership, we can give the right support to young Londoners whatever their need, helping them away from crime and towards a better, brighter future.”

The new scheme is fully funded until October 2017, with £1 million from the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and £500,000 from the London Community Rehabilitation Company. It is the first programme of its kind to operate across the entire city, and is being delivered through Safer London and a range of specialist organisations including Only Connect and youth charity Redthread to offer a comprehensive range of specialist channels appropriate to each individual’s needs. Around 300 young people aged 16-24 will be able to access the programme each year.

Helga Swidenbank, Director of probation at the London Community Rehabilitation Company said: “The Gang Exit programme is a ground-breaking initiative that will change lives right across London, and help gang members and victims escape a dangerous lifestyle that can be fatal in some cases. Our experienced and specialist staff will support young people in leaving behind the corrosive culture of gangs, which is a crucial step in combatting crime.”

Frances Mapstone, Interim Chief Executive at Safer London said: "London Gang Exit is a unique new programme, in that it will ensure a consistent level of support to young people across London for the first time. This means that no matter which borough the young person lives in, they can receive help to exit gang life, stop offending and live safely. We know that working in partnership with other organisations can be enormously effective, so we look forward to delivering this work alongside Redthread and Only Connect."

Notes to editors

*The Youth Matter report was carried out by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police in 2014. The terminology ‘a group of people/gangs’ used in the report does not necessarily mean the same as ‘gangs’ in the sense as defined by the police. To read the full report please visit: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/youth_matter_report_final_version.pdf

  1. The new London Gang Exit service has been developed in conjunction with a working group of key stakeholders including the youth justice board, probation service, health, and representatives from London boroughs. This included a number of engagement events across the capital.

  2. It is being delivered by a range of organisations, led by Safer London. Criminal justice charity Only Connect and youth charity Redthread are key delivery partners, and will appoint employees including support workers, mental health and resettlement specialists through the programme.

  3. The new service follows a lengthy consultation process with over 320 organisations and individuals to help develop the Mayor’s Strategic Ambitions for London: Gangs and Serious Youth Violence. For more information please visit: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_migrate_files_destination/Strategic%20Ambitions%20for%20London_%20Gangs%20and%20SYV%202014.pdf

  4. The London Community Rehabilitation Company is funded by the Ministry of Justice. It supervises around 25,000 low- and medium-risk offenders in the capital. London CRC probation staff work directly with offenders to tackle the causes of offending behaviour, enable them to turn their lives around and rehabilitate them back into the community. Ownership of the London CRC transferred to MTCnovo in February 2015.

  5. Safer London is an independent pan-London charity that supports young people affected by violence and crime. It has specialist knowledge and provision that supports young people to make positive life choices; increasing their safety, health and wellbeing, and reducing their involvement in crime and risky behaviours. It delivers holistic services for young people in all London boroughs, with a focus on those identified with the highest-levels of gang-related violence and crime.

  6. Only Connect is a London based creative criminal justice charity, rooted in community. Its vision is a connected society, where we all choose a crime free life. The focus of its work is innovation to prevent first-time offending and reduce re-offending. It delivers innovative rehabilitation projects in prisons, across youth justice and through its unique Membership centres in Kings Cross and White City. Its Membership model offers one single, seamless relationship from custody to community and into future prospects. It sees the people it works with as assets not liabilities, with a contribution to make to their families, communities and wider society.

  7. Redthread is a collaborative youth work charity, connecting with partners across London to provide vital support for young people in their transition into adulthood. It aims to keep young people healthy, safe and happy through a series of innovative programmes.

    MOPAC has commissioned Redthread to expand and roll out their pioneering Youth Violence Intervention Programme across London. This programme provides an innovative dimension to the support available to victims of serious youth violence by embedding youth workers alongside clinical teams in London’s Major Trauma Centre hospitals. The youth workers engage with victims presenting at A&E with assault-related injuries, gunshot wounds, stabbings, and those who report having been sexually exploited, to help them cope, recover and break the cycle of violence and exploitation. Between April 2015 and December 2015 Redthread had worked with 575 victims of serious violence and sexual exploitation, including 49 young people under 18 years old who are not known to any statutory agency.

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