Willesden mentoring service faces closure despite gang success

Former gang member predicts new gang injunctions to fail

A FORMER gang member has said government plans to break up gangs through injunctions will not work.

The 15-year-old, who did not want to be named, was referred to Dodd Prescott, at Potential Mentoring, based at the Unity Centre, in Church Road, Willesden, by social services after serving time for aggravated burglary in a youth offenders institute.

The organisation gives tailored support to young people who have fallen, or at risk of falling into, crime.

Following a three month programme, the youth is focusing on improving his life through regular visits to the gym, healthier eating and working towards getting a place at college.

And he says it is this care and guidance from someone he has come to respect that has given him the confidence to break away from his former life.

He said: “You get tired of living the same life. One year I just decided to get away – enough is enough. It’s not difficult to do if your mind is focused.

Most Read

“If I go to college I can get a job, whereas my friends will still be doing robberies, selling drugs or in jail.”

But he dismissed the idea of ASBOs or the new gang injunctions - which can restrict the movements of someone suspected of gang involvement and stop them wearing certain gang related colours - solving the root problem.

He said: “They give ASBOs for people being in gangs but the police aren’t always there to stop people being on the street. People will just change their schedules.

“You can’t stop it unless you put police on every street corner at every minute of the day.”

Mr Prescott said: “Their new gang ASBO is not going to work. He needed someone who could relate to where he was coming from but redirect his mind into something else he wanted to do but didn’t know how.”

Yet despite its success in helping young people reform, the service is at risk of closing as social services cut back on referrals due to budgetary constraints.

Kelly Oyebola, director at Potential Mentoring, said: “When the coalition came in I lost so much work, it’s a really difficult time, but the work we have done has been very positive. When we think what we have saved social services.”

Mary Arnold, lead member for children and families at Brent Council, said she supports the work of organisations like Potential Mentoring but the drop in referrals is a consequence of government cuts that are already impacting on community services.

A Department for Communities and local Government spokesman said: “The Government has delivered a tough but fair settlement ensuring the most vulnerable communities were protected. If councils share back-office services, join forces to procure, cut out the non-jobs and root out the over-spends then they can protect frontline services.”