A group of Met volunteers are playing an integral role in helping to move young people in London away from crime and onto better things.
The Met’s Divert programme works with young people who are brought into custody to help them away from crime and violence and into employment, education and training.
Since October 2018, the team – which includes six full time staff and three volunteers – has worked with more than 1,000 18-25 year olds, with just over 500 finding employment, education and training.
The programme is overseen by Chief Inspector Jack Rowlands, who said the custody environment is not simply seen as a place of detention.
Chief Inspector Rowlands, continued: “Custody is also a space for opportunity, a potential turning point for young people, and our volunteers are fully invested in that idea.
“Getting the right volunteers is important and we couldn’t ask for more from the three we have on our team. It is hard to put their dedication into words. They are by no means a separate arm to the Divert team but embedded at the centre of it and I know that without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“Tackling violence remains a priority for the Met, and it is only through working together alongside our communities that lasting change can occur. This preventative approach to violence is just as important to us as our enforcement role, which is why we are committed to the Divert programme.”
The volunteers – Manuel Mascarenhas, Alexandra Stroia and Zélia Edwards – work within the custody suites and are there to meet any young people arrested to discuss their aspirations and aims for the future and explain what the programme can offer.
If they wish to engage with any of the options, the volunteer will refer them to the relevant agency to move forwards.
The referral is by no means the end of the volunteers work, and they continue to have a close relationship with the young person to ensure they get the ongoing support they need.
Their dedication often sees them going above and beyond, including taking them to interviews or arranging childcare so they can get there.
Despite the recent pandemic restrictions making face-to-face interactions with those in custody more difficult, the volunteers have continued to play their part by speaking to those young people arrested over the phone and referring them to partner organisations remotely.
The lockdown period has also been used to re-connect with individuals previously involved with the scheme, including calls to check they have the support they need should they have been furloughed or encountered other problems as a result of Covid-19.