The Path Programme
Joining forces – a £1 million investment
In November 2013, the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, the Office for Civil Society, and The London Community Foundation joined forces on a £1million programme tackling gang involvement in London. We were able to do this thanks to an £800,000 contribution from the Office for Civil Society to the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund and £200,000 from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund endowment.
Gang activity ruins the lives of too many people in London – both those directly involved and those that live in communities where activity is rife. Our programme is investing primarily in initiatives which create a safe escape route for gang-involved young people who want to break free. We are also funding some initiatives that prevent involvement in the first place, on the premise that forewarned is forearmed.
Funds have been used in two ways. Firstly, by supporting 11 charities across London with grants totalling £420,000. All of them are working with young people at risk - providing safe pathways for those wishing to exit gangs, stopping criminal and anti-social behaviour, preventing younger generations from getting involved, or building skills and aspirations for better choices.
Secondly we have launched our area based initiative ‘The Path Programme’. Through this we are seeking to build that “way out” by mobilising the resources that communities have already. The Programme aims to develop and connect the skills, expertise and hard work of the various individuals, voluntary groups and statutory agencies that want to help young gang members turn their lives around. After a pilot in Lambeth, we have extended the programme to include Camden and Brent.
The Path Programme approach
A multi-agency need
Someone who wants to get out of a gang will typically have multiple, social, educational, emotional and medical needs; it’s hard for them to escape on their own.
There are individuals and organisations working hard across London boroughs to provide the necessary support and guidance. But it’s often too difficult for gang members to access this help. Currently, they would have to deal with a variety of agencies – from housing, school or the police to health agencies and children’s services.
This multi-agency approach is essential; no one organisation can do this work alone. But often the systems of cross-referral and multi-agency intervention are not sufficiently linked together. The Path Programme aims to help by funding a local coordinator that can bring agencies together.
Making communities part of the solution
We’ve seen a number of top-down or time-limited interventions aimed at tackling gang culture over the years. Sometimes these schemes come from people who do not live with the day-to-day repercussions of gang activity. When they end, there is very little legacy or ownership of the work because it has been delivered for rather than by the community. By investing directly into communities, we are tackling the issue as it affects individuals, while also aiming to help change the communities in which these problems arise.
“Every violent life-story reflects the interaction of an individual not just with his immediate family but also with the wider local environment. What if you have grown up on one of the most deprived estates in the country with high levels of worklessness and crime levels, a major drug dealing scene and an entrenched gang culture which intimidated local residents and sometimes left young people feeling they had little option but to join a gang. Successful strategies to reduce serious youth violence must therefore focus on place as much people”.
-The Home Office Ending Gang and Youth Violence Annual Report 2013
How The Path Programme turns lives around
The Path Programme provides funding for a group of local frontline projects and facilitates collaboration between sectors so that funded projects can offer young people a more comprehensive pathway out of gangs.
Under The Path Programme, the group that has the best relationship with the gang affected young person becomes his or her “engagement organisation”. This is the trusted point of contact through which they can access help from the other individuals and agencies that provide the advice and services they need. It’s like having a buddy or a helping hand.
The trusted organisation will have a proven record of engaging successfully with individuals, and will often involve ex-gang members as mentors. The key thing is that the young person who wants to escape gang life has one main point of contact, an organisation or person they trust, who can help them achieve their goal.
Getting everyone working together
The Path Programme is what we call a “Grants Plus” initiative. It provides funding to selected groups that help young people escape gang life. It also funds a local coordinator (Safer London Foundation) to help these groups and statutory services to work more closely together.
The coordination element is an essential – and unique – aspect of The Path Programme. The coordinator will help create referral pathways, make links with statutory services and build the strength of individual front-line groups.
We chose Lambeth as the first borough to pilot the approach as there was a clear need for joined-up activity in the area and The London Community Foundation already had an £80,000 pilot in place. We recently extended the programme to include Camden and Brent. Across the three boroughs, a total of £500,000 has now been invested including grants to 13 local organisations, local coordination by Safer London Foundation and evaluation.
For more information
If you would like to support The Path Programme, or learn more about how it is helping young people escape from gang life, please contact 020 7582 5117.