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November 2018
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County council wins acclaim for youth justice project which targets girls

A trail-blazing Nottinghamshire County Council initiative, which boasts blanket success in keeping girls out of the youth justice system, has received recognition from the national body which works to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under 18.

Last week, the Council was named as runner-up in this year’s Youth Justice Board’s Innovation Award for a project which looks at what works specifically for girls when it comes to keeping them out of the penal system.

Part of the project, which was set up in 2008, delivers programmes in secondary schools across the county tapping into the particular needs of girls.

County Council manager for targeted support and youth justice, Rachel Tunaley, who is leading the subject, said: “To date our school programmes have had a 100% success rate in keeping girls out of the youth justice system.

“The youth justice system is predominantly focused on the male population quite simply because the vast majority of offenders are male, but research was carried out into why so many young women were breaching their statutory court orders. Following this, our staff received training on the risk factors for female offenders and the importance of gender-responsive working. It was this training that inspired us to design the Pearl Project.

“Research indicates that young female offenders have often had difficult early life experiences including childhood abuse such as neglect and exposure to domestic violence. This links in with issues such as low self-esteem and a lack of aspirations.

So far 12 schools have taken part in the group sessions for 11 to 14 year olds which look at issues relevant to girls such as peer pressure, nurturing healthy relationships and friendships, sexual health and self-image.

Congratulating Nottinghamshire County Council its innovative work, chair of the Youth Justice Board Frances Done said: “Well done to Nottinghamshire Youth Offending Service.

“This is an excellent example of how a Council has embraced the idea of working with young women and recognised their specific needs.

“Early intervention programmes such as this are vital if we are to steer young people away from becoming involved in crime in the future. Fewer young people who come into contact with the system means safer communities with fewer victims of crime.

The Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services councillor Philip Owen added: “We’re delighted to have won this high profile recognition for such innovative work – there aren’t many councils across the country which have adopted such a targeted gender-specific approach with their preventative work.

“The aim is to raise the aspirations of girls in Nottinghamshire, prevent them from becoming victims of domestic abuse and prevent them from becoming involved in anti-social behaviour or offending.

Depending on need, programmes in schools are followed up with

one-to-one support. And staff also organise ‘girls only’ days for young women often used as rewards for those who have voluntarily completed the sessions.

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