Divert is run by the Milestone Foundation in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and assisted by the Passion Project team. It focuses on engaging young people at the point of police detention, helping them overcome challenges and offering them the support and guidance they need to find sustainable employment.
The programme has already undertaken a successful pilot in Brixton. This pilot engaged with 116 young people. An incredible 38 of those individuals are now in employment, whilst a further 76 are undertaking training or an apprenticeship. By helping these young people to break the reoffending cycle, the pilot potentially saved the taxpayer £11.23 million.
Following an individual's detention, one of our trained independent advisers will visit them in order to gauge their interest in the programme. At this point, we look to understand their values and aspirations in order to match them to potential career opportunities. This allows us to signpost the individual to the most effective organisation, or network of organisations, that can best support their needs and help them overcome personal issues such as drugs, debt or housing.
When required, the Divert programme provides mentoring services, including trained one-to-one support, maintaining liaison with the MPS, and advising the courts of the changes made by the individual and their positive contribution to society. We find that this level of close guidance and support is crucial in helping young people make the necessary changes in their lives.
We first met Stanley in a custody cell at Brixton police station where he was approached by Ann-Marie, an advisor employed by the Foundation. Stanley had been picked up for a minor offence after struggling to pay his rent. Ann-Marie’s position – as an independent advisor working from a police station – gives her a unique ability to approach young offenders about support, free from any associated stigma.
Ann-marie soon discovered that, although Stanley was very creative he found himself in trouble with the police because he lacked a positive outlet and a job. He’d been offered guidance before, but had grown disillusioned when the promised support failed to materialise. Feeling at a loss and out of options, Stanley admitted that in the moment he’d made a poor decision. Now, however, he wanted Divert and Ann-Marie’s help. Together, they identified his needs – sustained employment guidance and support – and she introduced him to the Passion Project.
“I've been given a real opportunity to change my life and not just the empty promises I've had before.”
The Passion Project found Stanley a mentor and helped him successfully apply for an interview for a full-time demolition apprenticeship with construction company Erith. Through discussions with his mentor, it became apparent that, although Stanley was keen to learn a new trade, his real passion was music.
Knowing that Stanley’s circumstances were somewhat precarious, and that without any support or a career to fall back on, he was in danger of reoffending, we proposed a deal. If Stanley could stay focused and complete his demolition apprenticeship, then we would use our connections with producers Rock Solid Music and publishers Nexstar to help Stanley create, record and publish an album.
This incentive seemed to work as, with encouragement and support provided by his new mentor Liz, Stanley has since started his demolition training with Erith and the NFDC, and is currently working on site at Marble Arch, where he has learned everything from asbestos awareness, to health and safety and traffic marshalling.
To help Stanley make this transition into the world of work, the Passion Project also provided him access to emotional intelligence training, including a course delivered by a specialised trainer. Without this support – the initial contact and the sustained employment guidance – Stanley admits that he may have struggled to find work and avoid reoffending.
“I can’t thank the Foundation enough; they have not just got me a placement, they have continued to mentor me and help me overcome many challenges along the way; without them I would most probably have reoffended.”
Stanley has continued to work on developing his music career, making music which he describes as very melodic. With support from Nexstar and the Foundation, he has now launched a site where his fans can listen to and purchase his music.