Newcastle boy one of 250 to be steered away from violent crime through children's programme

A boy from Newcastle is one of more than 250 children to have been steered away from violent crime thanks to a football programme.

Bobby, 11, from Newcastle, came to the attention of Northumbria Police in 2018 when he was involved in a series of anti-social behaviour incidents, including destroying property, smashing windows and knocking on people's doors and running away.

He was referred to the Yolo programme, run by Northumbria's Violence Reduction Unit, which helps mentor young people between the ages of eight and 14 who are vulnerable to being caught up in violent crime and knife crime.

He told ITV News Tyne Tees the programme had changed his life.

"It helps me read, like it helps me keep out of trouble," he said.

"It takes me on trips. Like they help me for learning, they help me to make the right choices and they help me play football."

Through the Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC football foundations, the programme offers support and guidance via activities like football, one-to-one mentoring and extra education, including improving reading and writing skills.

His mother, Christine Hodgson, said the intervention of one-to-one mentoring has relieved her of anxieties about her son's future.

She said: "It’s great and it's just a shame that it's not every kid can get involved with something like this, instead of just certain ones.

"It’s a shame that you’ve got to go thought the police to get things like this."

Without the programme, she said her son would probably be caught up in "knife crime", adding: "It’s like groups you’re getting into, bigger lads you’re going in with and you just don’t know what’s going to be going on. You don’t. It is a scary world out there."

The programme is currently supporting 53 young people in Tyne and Wear.

It includes virtual reality sessions, where children are presented with real life scenarios connected to knife and violent crime, which gives them a safe environment to make the right choices when subject to such situations.

Jacqueline Critchley, a coordinator of the Yolo Programme, said: "They cover a range of intervention sessions, which are specific to their referral need.

"So that could be anything from knife crime, to building resilience, to hate crime, racism, we cover a wide range of topics that are hopefully going to steer them onto a more positive path."

Bosses at Northumbria's Violence Reduction Unit added that the programme is all about early intervention and prevention.

Steve Hume, who runs the Northumbria unit, said: "It’s about creating that awareness, that understanding with young people that actually, there’s more out there for them to engage with that will reduce their risk of getting drawn into further activity or come to the attention of the police and other services."

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