Cream of the crop: allotment scheme to tackle youth crime celebrates first harvest…

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An allotment transformed by youngsters on our ground breaking Custody Triage programme has produced its first harvest. The plot at Queens Park allotments in Blackburn has produced its first crops following an intensive 18 month period of work by youngsters taking part in the scheme, which diverts young people who’ve committed low level crimes away from the criminal justice system by offering them the chance to take part in community reparation schemes.

The Queens Park project, one of several reparation schemes run by CANW across Lancashire, was set up after homeless charity Nightsafe asked us to take on repair work following a fire which damaged outbuildings and land at the allotment. Nightsafe were so impressed by the work carried out by our young people that they asked CANW to take over responsibility for restoring the site to its former glory. Now fruit and vegetables grown on the site are being given to the team at Nightsafe to help teach young homeless people how to prepare and cook food and to provide meals for those accessing Nightsafe’s Platform 5 day centre.

Andy Kay, Triage Reparation Worker with CANW said: “Working on the allotment has been a fantastic experience for all the young people involved in our Custody Triage Scheme in Blackburn. It’s been really hard work to transform the site but they’ve learned skills they can take with them into the workplace, from woodwork skills and painting and decorating to gardening.”

Reparation Support Worker Dave Aspinall, who supervises young people on court reparation orders who also work on the site added: “Lots of the youngsters who work here have never been on an allotment before and they really enjoy seeing the progress the crops have made each time they’re there. They also help out some of the older allotment holders. It’s really helped them to engage with older people in the community. One of the boys has even been inspired to take on his own allotment.”

The Custody Triage project currently works with more than 500 young people aged 10 to 17 across Lancashire and is estimated to have saved Lancashire Police more than £185,000 between 2015 and 2016 by helping more than 600 young people who would otherwise end up in the youth justice system.

Jay Ratcliffe, Volunteer Coordinator at Nightsafe said the work done by CANW would make a real difference to the homeless people they support: “They’ve done an incredible job of transforming the allotment, and we’re so pleased they’ve been able to take over management of the site. Having access to the fresh fruit and vegetables grown on the site is wonderful – it means we’re able to teach young homeless people how to prepare and cook food and to supplement the meals we provide to those who use our day centre.”

CANW’s Criminal Justice Service Manager Faith Marriott, who developed the triage service added: “It’s amazing to see the first harvest from our Queens Park allotment project and to know the produce is going to help such a worthwhile cause.

“The triage scheme not only helps to reduce the number of low level offenders, it helps young people build strong links with their community, learn new skills and turn their back on a life of crime.”


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