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Divert programme helping turn lives of young people around

On a typical morning at Lambeth police station almost all cells are full. But for the younger inmates there is now an opportunity to turn their lives around.

CCTV monitoring cells at Lambeth police station

Within the first few hours of being locked up in a cell volunteers from a scheme called Divert will do their best to guide them away from a life of crime.

The ultimate goal is to stop reoffending. To stop 18 to 25-year-olds from coming into contact with the criminal justice system and coming into police custody.

So, we do that by directing them into employment, training, development or just offering some form of information, advice and guidance.

– ANN-MARIE WILLISON, Programme Manager
Divert programme worker at Lambeth police station

There's no shortage of people being booked into the cells at Lambeth. Crime involving young people is at record levels.

The Divert scheme runs alongside the criminal justice structure but it's independent and is not a way for those who have been arrested to avoid the system.

Divert programme worker at Lambeth police station

I don't want people engaging on Divert that think they can mitigate the offence they've been arrested for. Also at the same time this is about them - it's not about what they've done, it's about them.

And I think keeping it focused on what they want to do with themselves makes it easier for everyone. If they go to court and get convicted we're still going to work with them, regardless.

– Insp JACK ROWLANDS, Course founder

Of the 5,000 young people taken into custody in Lambeth in the last 12 months only 200 chose to engage with the Divert programme.

But it is making a difference. Aaron Burdon, 30, has been in and out of detention centres and prison since he was 12-years-old. The Divert programme got him his first ever interview for a job and even made sure he was suitably dressed.

Aaron Burdon

I said I haven't got any - they say smart dress - I haven't got anything, I've just come out from doing a long time. She sent me down to a T.M. Lewin shop. They kitted me out, bought me lovely shoes. A full suit. Sent me there with a bit of dignity and looking smart.

– Aaron Burdon

Aaron got the job and has vowed to stay away from crime. Still in its infancy Divert's successes may be limited. But the difference the scheme makes to individuals' lives is immense.