The national recognition of the achievements of a Tyneside community in reducing anti-social behaviour will be a “springboard for further progress”.
The work of The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership and Northumbria Police was one of five projects from across the UK to make the final shortlist in the Policing and Children category of this year’s prestigious Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards.
The judging panel recognised the success of the project in “Diverting children away from the Criminal Justice System” and how it involved members of the community in planning and decision making. It also commended the collaborative working between the partner agencies – such as the police and Newcastle City Council – and the local community.
The transformation of the area has coincided with the creation of The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership which has developed a range of services for the local community. These have included youth clubs and other activities for young people, a library, shop and the UK’s first community post office, which opened earlier this year.
Three years ago – just prior to the birth of the Partnership – there was a high level of damage and anti-social behaviour in the area which was tackled with a high-profile 12 months police campaign called Operation Whistler.
Nick Brown, chair of The Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership, said: “We have come a long way since then. The nomination is a fitting recognition of the hard work of a team of very dedicated people and I firmly believe this is just the start. It’s going to be a springboard to even further progress.”
In March Community Support Officer Andrea Fryer received a Northumbria Police Pride in Policing Award for her work in Blakelaw. Her role, alongside Leanne Risk – the Partnership’s Children and Young Person’s Lead Practitioner – was highlighted in the nomination for the Howard League for Penal Reform award.
Although they did not win, Andrea and Leanne said a nomination for such a prestigious award was still a major achievement.
“To be acknowledged for all the hard work that the staff team and volunteers have been committed to over the past three years was just fantastic,” said Leanne.
“We pride ourselves in being a community based partnership which allows us to respond to the needs of the whole community. Providing a time and space for young people who have very little opportunities helps them focus on something positive and reduce anti-social behaviour.”
Andrea said there had been a marked change in the attitude and behaviour of some of the young people who had previously been in trouble.
“It’s marvellous for me to come to the Blakelaw Centre and see kids – who I know have been involved in crime outside – helping out,” said Andrea.
There were now opportunities to engage with very young children in the community. She added: “We’re getting them at the right time because they could have become the next generation of trouble-makers.”
And, said Leanne, local teenagers are helping her and her colleagues by – for example – running sports activities. Some of the young people had secured apprenticeships working in The Blakelaw Centre and the Partnership is hoping to provide accredited training courses for others.
“We want to ensure all young people are given a chance and have a sense of belonging to their community,” said Leanne.
The other nominees were in the Policing and Children category were Dorset Police’s Triage Scheme; The Fast Track Team, run by Prospects Gloucestershire Youth Support Team; Humberside Police Night Challenge and Pembrokeshire Youth Service’s Court Out. The winner was the Triage Scheme.