Wed, October 24, 2012
Junior Smart and the SOS Project
Junior Smart has been an Ashoka fellow since 2008. He has developed a model of peer-led mentoring programme for prisoners to break the cycle of reoffending: Southwark Offenders Support (SOS) is an individualised, holistic mentoring programme run by ex-offenders, that works with prisoners at a high risk of re-offending - both before and after their release.
In deprived areas of London, increased violence, theft, and drug use have contributed to the rise of crime among young people. Junior has been working tirelessly to help these young people back onto their feet, and he has been incredibly succesful in doing so: fewer than 10% of the young clients he works with have re-offended (compared to a national average of 55.5% for adults and 75% for young people). Key to the project's success is that it focusses on the individual and places them at the heart of the approach.
As local authorities recognize the success of Junior's project, they have started working alongside the SOS Project. Below is an overview of their most recent pilots and collaborations aimed at reducing crime - especially re-offending.
Family based work in Greenwich and Ealing
Caseworkers on our SOS Project have witnessed some disturbing developments with their clients over the past years. One has been increasingly younger clients getting involved in gangs – our caseworkers now report seeing children as young as 12 getting caught up.
The other has been the devastating impact of the prevailing recession on families in areas blighted by gang crime. Some families – in desperation – are relying on the proceeds of gang-related crime committed by their children to help support the family and feel powerless to halt spiralling violent behaviour from their children.
SOS has secured local authority partnership funding to develop family support work with families in Greenwich, south east London and Ealing, west London working with 12-15 year olds who are caught up in or at risk of gang crime.
The work in Greenwich is of particular interest. It pilots a new approach to tackling conflict through using the Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) programme. This can be used to overcome violent, aggressive or controlling behaviour in young people by raising parental presence, increasing parental confidence and enabling parents to feel an increased sense of agency in dealing with young people.
Safe and Secure
Gang involvement is often closely tied to the area someone comes from. This can make it very hard for some people to leave negative lifestyles as they do not have the resources or support to up sticks and move to a completely new area.
SOS is now involved in the Metropolitan Police’s pan-London Safe and Secure programme. This relocates young people at a high risk of gang involvement or repercussions from it who need to move to different areas to break away.
In order to be accepted onto the project, clients are required to sign up to a memorandum of understanding to stay away from the area which poses risks and engage with an intensive and challenging package of support designed to help them build new lives for themselves.
The programme works across London and SOS will be working with some of the most high profile clients, bringing our expertise of working with gang members to support Safe and Secure.
Work in Brent and Westminster
Statutory funding for projects is often restricted to work in defined local authority areas. This presents problems for those trying to work with them as gangs don’t operate on local authority boundaries. Gang activity taking place on one side of a street will also be replicated across the road.
We have developed a new specialist service working in a gang hotspot on a notorious estate which borders the London Boroughs of Brent and Westminster. Funded under the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A), it works across both boroughs to tackle rising cross-borough gang culture and escalating youth violence on this estate.
Still in its early stages, the project will provide clients with intensive one-to-one mentoring from reformed ex-offenders and provide gang exit routes through guiding clients into education, training and employment.
To find out more about Junior Smart and the SOS Project, visit their website, follow them on Twitter @StGilesTrustSOS, have a look at Junior's profile and follow our Fellow of the Month campaign.