Pioneering project ‘diverting’ teenagers from serious organised crime is rolled out across the UK

Tuesday 29 October 2019

A ground-breaking programme diverting young people away from a life of serious organised crime is to be rolled out to a number of cities across the UK

  • Former young offenders acting as ‘peer mentors’ to help children escape from a life of serious organised crime.
  • Edinburgh, Newcastle and Cardiff identified for roll out following successful project in Glasgow.
  • Two thirds of teenagers supported by Glasgow project have significantly improved their offending behaviour.
  • Analysis shows a £½m city council saving by ‘diverting’ high risk young people from secure care.
  • According to UK Government, organised crime - including money laundering and drug trafficking – bigger threat to UK than terrorism.
  • Run by UK charity Action for Children and funded with £4.6m from The National Lottery Community Fund, project will now target ‘high-risk’ 11-18-year-olds across the UK.

Action for Children’s Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service has been running in Glasgow since 2013 and will now be rolled out to Edinburgh, Newcastle and Cardiff, funded by £4.6 million from The National Lottery Community Fund.

The pioneering Glasgow project is the first of its kind in the UK to use ‘peer mentors’, many themselves former young offenders, and has been shown to be effective in offering accessible role models for teenagers who have previously resisted other types of mainstream support. One teenager who had committed almost 600 offences has not reoffended since taking part in the Glasgow project.

Analysis into the programme has showed that out of 49 young people, just four continued to offend after receiving support. By diverting four ‘high risk’ young people from secure care, the project represented a saving of over half a million pounds for Glasgow City Council over six months.

Over a three-year period across the UK, Action for Children with police, crime and council partners will work with families and schools in communities to target vulnerable young people on the cusp of serious organised crime such as drug supply and distribution, money laundering, stealing to order and illegal enforcement.

The service will also offer targeted support to 11 to 18-year-olds through intensive one-to-one support, peer mentoring, education and employment training.

Case study: Kieran* (19) has been supported by Action for Children’s Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service. Life is a lot less volatile for him now, he lives with his girlfriend and has a full-time job in a kitchen. But life was very different growing up.

He grew up in a Glasgow estate, rife with drugs and drug dealing. It was almost natural for Kieran to fall into a criminal way of life. "When you live where I did, you didn’t really have a choice,” he said. “Up and down the stairs in the flats I stayed in there were people injecting into their arms. I saw that from the age of five.”

Not long out of primary school, he came to the attention of organised crime groups in the area and was given drugs to sell. “By 11, I was selling drugs and being paid in cigarettes. It started with cannabis then moved to valium and harder stuff including heroin.”

As he grew older, the nature of the crimes became more serious. “I was involved with gangs, battering people, stealing cars to order and selling drugs - it was all about making money. As I got older, if people didn’t pay us, we were sent to their door. It was out of control however, that’s what we were told to do and if we wanted money, we did it.”

Eventually, as the crimes got more serious and violent, the police became involved. Kieran knew he needed to make a break away from his criminal ties and hasn’t looked back since being referred to the Action for Children project.

“I couldn’t go back there now - the same people are still in control of that estate. It would have been a lot easier to stay where I was and making the money I was, but it was made through violence and drugs. That’s my old life and I’m glad it’s not the life I have now. It’s not the future I want for my family.”

Action for Children director for Scotland, Paul Carberry, said: “Serious organised crime is an issue for the whole of the UK, disproportionately impacts the more vulnerable in our communities, and has a greater presence in socially and economically disadvantaged areas.

“Since 2013 this project has worked intensively with more than 70 young people across Glasgow, diverting them away from a life in serious organised crime and into employment.  The success from Scotland will lead the way across the UK to help ensure that every child and young person in the country has a safe and happy childhood with the foundations they need to thrive.”

Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, adds: “Action for Children’s Serious Organised Crime project has proved to be very effective in Scotland, and we’re proud that National Lottery funding will now see it expand to help even more young people at risk. By identifying and diverting young people away from serious organised crime and towards positive choices, this project not only helps reduce lawbreaking, but also helps them to thrive.”

The project will be rolled out in Edinburgh in January, and in Newcastle and Cardiff by April 2020.


*Name has been changed


For further information please contact Emma Marshall on 07875 399 995 or email [email protected]

Notes to editors

Calculation is based on report in 2017/18: Cost of secure estimated at £5,000 per week (£5000 x 26 weeks (six months) is £130,000 per person. The Action for Children service has worked with young people this accounting period at an approximate cost of £3,125 per young person per annum. The cost for six months service is therefore £1,562.50 per young person. The cost of six months service for four young people likely to have been otherwise incarcerated is therefore £6,250. Subtracted from the cost of six months secure care for four young people at £520,000 this equals a cost saving of £513,750.

About Action for Children

For 150 years Action for Children has been helping disadvantaged children across the UK through intervening early to stop neglect and abuse, fostering and adoption, supporting disabled children, and by campaigning tirelessly to make life better for children and families. With 476 services the charity improved the lives of more than 387,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers last year.

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.