Last week, Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) joined colleagues from the London and Lancashire VRUs in hosting a “virtual visit” for Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding.
The online meeting showcased activity under the DIVERT programme, which aims to steer young people away from violent crime.
The minister was given updates on the Thames Valley DIVERT programme, which embeds staff employed by the local football club community outreach team within custody suites, helping young people (aged 18 – 25) to access support and opportunities away from crime.
While the programme is in its early stages, there are currently four Custody Intervention Coaches (CICs) operating in the Thames Valley area from the following community trusts:
- Oxford United in the Community
- Wycombe Wanders Sports & Education Trust
- MK Dons Sports & Education Trust
- Reading Football Community Trust
They are deliberately not police officers, but instead are affiliated with a local football club. They are trained in breaking down boundaries with young people, often using football and sport to help get conversations started.
They discuss a young person’s situation, their interests and the challenges they face and signpost them toward appropriate local opportunities. This could include education, training, employment, or more specialist support offered by a growing network of local providers.
Through these interventions with a young person as they enter custody the coaches are able to ensure the right support is given at the earliest point to prevent them being caught up in the cycle of crime, particularly serious violence.
Rob Murray, of New Era Foundation and Programme Manager for the Thames Valley Divert work, said:
“It was a pleasure to be asked to share some of the excellent work we have been developing in the Thames Valley, together with colleagues from other areas in the country.
“We believe some of the greatest challenges young people face is the shortage of opportunities, safe spaces and the sense of purpose from training and employment.
“As we develop our programme of Custody Intervention Coaches, we hope to be able to have some really positive interventions with those young people to prevent them being drawn into crime and to keep them and our communities safe from the threat of violence.”
Also contributing to the meeting was Superintendent Stan Gilmore, Director of the Thames Valley VRU and Andy Boyd who leads on the Criminal Justice and Early Intervention workstream.