SHEFFIELD’s Youth Offending Service has been awarded £75,000 to boost the work it carries out to reduce offending in the city.
It has been awarded the cash by the Department of Health after its crime prevention service was judged one of the best in the country.
Last year there were 392 city youngsters who fell foul of the law for the first time and ended up in the crimimal justice system - but five years earlier the figure stood at 1,200.
Police and council workers put the reduction down to preventative work, in which children as young as eight are identified as at risk of becoming embroiled in criminality.
Experts then work with the youngsters and their families to put plans in place to help them turn their lives around.
The Youth Offending Service’s crime prevention officer, Jess Wallace, said she was delighted with the reduction in the number of children ending up with criminal records.
“It is down to partner agencies working together - the youth offending service, schools, police, social services - to identify young people at risk at an early stage and to work with them and support them and their families to make positive life choices so they don’t end up offending,” she said.
She added agencies look for warning signals which could point to youngsters at risk of falling into a life of crime, including children missing school, youngsters regularly going missing from home, and those mixing with ‘negative’ role models.
“We are getting better and better at identifying young people who need support and put plans in place at an earlier stage than we used to,” added Jess.
Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, who met some of the young people who have tuned their backs on crime, said: “I’m thrilled to be meeting young people who have shown they can turn their back on anti-social behaviour and crime and have found constructive and positive ways to channel their talents and energy.
“One of our main priorities is making sure we are doing our best for the young people in this city. Often it can be very hard to turn back onto the right path after going down the criminal route, therefore anything which helps prevent young people from straying off the straight and narrow is to be welcomed.”