Wirral has seen a drop in the rate of young people entering the justice system by almost 27% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
The fall is attributed in part to a number of preventative projects run by the Wirral Youth Justice Service, a statutory partnership between the council, Merseyside Police, Probation Service and health partners.
Launched in 2021/22 two of the service’s projects – In The Zone and Operation Inclusion – use a variety of methods to identify young people who may be at risk of entering the criminal justice system, and work with them to prevent crime.
Chair of Wirral Council’s Children and Young People Committee Cllr Sue Powell-Wilde said, “Intervening as early as possible improves the lives not only of the young people, but also our wider communities in Wirral as it results in a drop in crime.
“A key part of connecting with young people either involved in, or on the cusp of, the criminal justice system is seeing them as children first, offenders second.
“Through these preventative programmes from the Youth Justice Service, we are seeing that taking the time to understand young people’s experiences, treating them fairly and giving them the tools they need to build on their own strengths, is vital to bringing about change for these young people, their families and our communities.”
The data is shared in the Wirral Youth Justice Service (YJS) Annual Plan 2023-24. The 26.6% drop in young people entering the justice system in Wirral is the highest reduction in Merseyside, comparing also to a 2% increase nationally in young people entering the system for the first time.
In The Zone
In The Zone is a multi-agency programme run with Merseyside Police, the council’s Youth Justice Service, Response, Youth Service and Compass Teams, and community organisation Catch 22. It delivers prevention and information sessions to year 9 students across the borough. The session is split into ‘zones’, each with a different theme, covering topics including knife crime, exploitation and gangs, peer pressure, drugs and alcohol. Groups of 20 young people are involved in a game or activity for 45 minutes before moving to another zone.
These short, intense and fun sessions are intended to be more productive than presentations and assemblies. The YJS team and Partners involved in the Zone have found that young people are more likely to speak to professionals in smaller groups and to ask questions with their peers.
Since it was first delivered, the ‘In the Zone’ school education programme has grown, and Wirral YJS and partners now run the intervention in the majority of schools and alternative provisions in the borough, with more than 4,000 young people having taken part so far.
Operation Inclusion is a programme that lasts up to 12 weeks, working with young people who are already known to the YJS and their families to reduce offending behaviour and address the underlying issues.
Funded through the Violent Reduction Partnership the programme, initially piloted in Wirral, was rolled out across the Merseyside region due to its success.
In the last year, the YJS team have worked with a number of young people under Operation Inclusion and to date none of the young people has gone on to re-offend.
Operation Inclusion received national recognition from the Howard League for Penal Reform, receiving the ‘Community Award’ under the category of ‘Policing and Children’.
Supporting families and young people the Wirral Family Toolbox website (www.wirralfamilytoolbox.co.uk ) is available for anyone to access and offers a range of information and links to many agencies that parents and carers can contact.
Additionally, families access the Zillo Website (www.zillowirral.co.uk ), a bespoke website co-produced by young people, for young people, for information or support on a range of topics.