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New gang initiative launches

​Young people in Suffolk who are at risk of becoming involved with gangs are being offered targeted help to develop key skills to challenge offending behaviour and learn how to manage conflict safely as part of a new initiative designed to prevent them from falling into crime.

The project will see young people aged between 10 and 18, attend a 12-week thinking skills programme focusing on areas such as problem-solving, relationships, communicating assertively and boosting their sense of identity. As well as helping them to set personal goals, it is hoped it will also improve their education and employment opportunities.

The initiative is being delivered by a partnership of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Suffolk County Council (County Lines and Gangs Team), with Home Office funding secured by Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. It is thought to be one of the first of its kind to take place outside of young offenders’ institutions and will be piloted with two groups of six over the coming months, with the results then evaluated to measure its success.

“Working on this project has been absolutely fascinating,” said NSFT Clinical Psychologist Dr Katie Budge, who developed the programme. “It comes in response to evidence which shows there is a real need for more therapeutic intervention programmes for young people, rather than treating their complex needs within the criminal justice system.

“Our aim is to identify the skills deficits which may be underpinning their behaviours, and support the young people to overcome those difficulties rather than waiting until they become more entrenched within the youth offending and criminal justice systems.

“These young people have quite often lived through some quite significant trauma and have often missed out on appropriate therapeutic support. This programme aims to identify and target those areas of need; using techniques from therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help the group build their skills within both group and one-to-one sessions.

“We will also be working closely with parents to make sure they can support their children to continue using the new skills they have learnt when they are at home.”

The programme will be delivered to groups of six by staff from Suffolk County Council’s County Lines and Gangs team, who have already developed relationships with the young people who will be taking part.

Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “We are very excited about the introduction of this targeted work with some of our young people. By supporting these young people to improve their problem-solving and communication skills we can help them forge better relationships and make smart choices that will help set them on a good path in life.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Ensuring our young people do not become involved in violence and gang membership in Suffolk is crucial.

“This highly innovative ‘Thinking Skills’ programme is really focused on helping particularly vulnerable local teenagers, and the initial results are most encouraging.

“I believe the programme will help build very solid foundations for those attending so they turn their back on violence and intimidation and become good and reliable citizens as they enter adulthood.”

Caption: Dr Katie Budge, NSFT Clinical Psychologist

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