Includem’s work focusing on reducing rates of youth crime in West Dunbartonshire has been highlighted by Police Scotland as making ‘positive’ progress.

Over a three-year period, the youth charity’s ‘ADAPT for Cashback’ worked with more than 200 young people on the edge of criminal justice to help them take a more positive life path.

Youth Engagement Police Officer, Julie Wreford, is based in Dumbarton and worked closely with the includem team over the course of the project.

‘I got involved with includem in 2020 we were very keen to get involved because we could see the potential of it. We started to see a difference almost immediately as the majority of young people we referred to them haven’t had contact with us again, which tells us they are not engaging in activity that requires police action,’ said Julie.

‘We would highlight to includem young people that are on the periphery of crime who aren’t picking up charges yet but have been spoken to by us.

‘Referrals were not a punitive measure, we made the decision for referral along with the family if we thought that includem support could make a difference in getting through a difficult time in an individual’s adolescence.

‘We saw some really positive results and I would worry in future if this support was to be withdrawn to be honest.’

Julie said they were currently looking at other ways to engage with includem so they can continue their work in the area.

‘I would be keen to get includem engaged in some way with young people who we term as ‘missing’, they’re not where they should be whether this is at school or at home.

‘These young people are not necessarily committing crimes but are very vulnerable, because we wear uniforms these people can be less than forthcoming when we are dealing with them, this is where includem can make progress with this group when perhaps we can’t.’

‘When young people are missing, they are very much at risk of exploitation, but they don’t see that. It’s too easy for these kids to fall through net because they won’t engage with us.

‘This is an area I’d like to see includem get involved in because their skills and expertise in engaging with this group is not something that we, or other professionals such as social workers or teachers, have, and it works in delivering more positive outcomes for young people,’ added Julie.

‘Through the skills they have they can tease out what is perhaps causing their negative behaviour patterns and can work with them to turn this around without us getting involved directly with individuals.’

‘I like the way they speak to the kids it’s not a top down ‘you need to do this. you need to do that’ approach, it’s working with them so the young person themselves comes up with a strategy to change their own behaviour.

‘Working with includem is very much a two-way process, I feel I can bounce ideas off them, I definitely feel that it is a proper team approach with the child at the centre. We work together to do what’s best for the young person, it is partnership working at its best.’