An innovative programme to help care leavers and young people avoid violence and crime has won a national award.

Sussex Police teamed up with Albion in the Community (AITC) to deliver the SWITCH Programme, helping people approaching their 18th birthday up to their 25th birthday to stop them being a victim or perpetrator in criminality.

The scheme has been recognised with a national award by The Howard League for Penal Reform, a charity which works for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

The Switch programme beat competition from other schemes across England and Wales to win an award in the Children and Children in Care category.

It provides independent mentoring for young people, including car leavers, in order to give the best support for their future success. It also helps divert them away from becoming involved in crime and avoid becoming entrenched in the criminal justice system.

The award recognised the outstanding work being done across sectors to understand and highlight the factors leading to young people from care being over-represented in the criminal justice system. It also recognises the work to prevent criminalisation of young people.

The programme a joint approach by Sussex Police and partners and is delivered by Brighton and Hove Albion’s charity Albion in the Community.

It is a non-judgemental programme which is voluntary and completely independent of any criminal matters.

Once on the programme, the young person will benefit from 25 to 30 hours of individual mentoring and undergo a significant training to change their thinking and behaviour.

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Rayland said: “I am delighted that Sussex Police has been recognised for the Switch Programme.

“Care leavers can often experience a very difficult transition from child to adulthood. We are keen to work with young people and ensure that they get a good start to their adult life.

“The Switch programme has been developed with AITC and provides young adults with an opportunity to receive mentoring to help build positive factors, set goals and help them realise their potential and divert and keep them away from the criminal justice system. 

“We are really proud of this programme and the difference that it can make to the lives of young adults.”

Paul Williams, Head of Community Programmes at Albion in the Community said: “We are honoured that our partnership work with Sussex Police has been recognised by the Howard League for Penal Reform. 

“Our team of coaches are committed to creating positive outcomes for all of the young people that we support so that they make good life choices. 

“We look forward to continuing our work and making a significant impact in our local communities over the coming years.”

The one-to-one mentoring includes:

•Development of a bespoke, achievable action plan to focus and direct the young person on their end goal throughout their time on the programme.

•Support, information and guidance from a dedicated Care Intervention Coach to assist the young person in their transition to independence and away from violence and criminality.

•Work around identify positive self-worth, importance of personal responsibility, appreciation of emotions and behaviours, understanding of growth mind set and comfort zones, goal setting, resilience and overcoming barriers and setbacks.

The eligibility criteria for referrals is:

•Aged 18 – 25

•At risk of being a victim or perpetrator of violence

•If the young person is pending any serious offences such as sexual offences, terrorism or assaulting an emergency worker they will not be eligible for entering the programme.  Please contact the Programme Manager with any questions switch.programme@sussex.pnn.police.uk.

To find out more about the programme or you wish to refer a young care leaver to the SWITCH programme then please complete a referral form and email it to Switch.Programme@sussex.pnn.police.uk.