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AWARD WINNER 2012-13: Sarah-Jane was nominated for her work on the Cardiff “StaySafe” initiative, bringing together the police, ambulance services, victim support, street pastors, the licensing authorities and others, to target high risk events and locations, and protect young people from committing or becoming victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. Sarah-Jane developed the initiative, forged the partnership relationships which under-pin it, and remains the driving force behind it.
Team Manager at Cardiff Youth Offending Service, Sarah-Jane Bailey, is a Butler Trust Award Winner for contributions to the local StaySafe crime reduction and public safety initiative for young people. Sarah-Jane set up Cardiff StaySafe with the South Wales Police in 2010, growing the scheme from a oneoff event and pioneering the sharing of anonymous data from a range of agencies to identify when young people are most at risk of harm or of causing harm to others.
The demandled project runs in areas with higher levels of youth crime and drinking, antisocial behaviour, assault and sexual assault. The gathering of anonymous data means interventions can be targeted where they are most needed, and the police are able to use the provisions of the Children’s Act to remove young people to a place of safety if they are thought to be at risk of harm, with venues sourced by Sarah-Jane personally. There they can be given on the spot advice by a range of professionals, but the context is overwhelmingly one of support and explaining how safety can be compromised by drink or drugs, rather than any sort of punitive approach.
‘The young people themselves see us as somebody that’s there to help them,’ SarahJane tells Inspire. ‘Yes we might ruin their night by removing somebody for their own safety and engaging with their parents – when you’re 15 phoning your parents is probably the worst thing that can happen – and most think their lives are ruined, but then they realise that they’re not being arrested. If you’re drinking underage in a public place you could be charged with being drunk and disorderly, but we’re not arresting you, there’s no follow up with regards to criminal activity. We’re there to support you and if you do need extra help we’ll try to find it for you.’
Initially inspired by a similar project in Liverpool around gangs, the scheme is entirely intelligencebased. ‘I’m probably the only person in Cardiff – and maybe the UK – who correlates all this information from people like A&E, the ambulance trust, victim support, the police and trading standards, to know the peak times of the day, year or month that young people are likely to find themselves in difficulty,’ she says. ‘It’s not rocket science. Valentine’s night has one of the highest rates of alcohol related 999 incidents for young people. I can’t stop young people being rebuked and not getting the boyfriend of their dreams, but at the same time if we know there’s an under 18s disco or a party that’s been organised, that heady mix of emotions will be more of a cause of alarm. So we’ll mobilise a team around those sort of events.’
What’s the feedback been like from the young people themselves? ‘It depends what our engagement has been,’ she says. ‘Most of the kids we work with have had a drink, so it can be quite an emotive place to be. Youth Offending staff, unlike the police, are not an emergency service, so we usually deal with the aftereffects of young people’s behaviour. You can explain about the dangers they might be putting themselves in, diversionary activities they could be taking part in, or even just do some education in harm reduction.’
As well as forging strong partnerships with a number of agencies, she has helped to increase joint working between organisations that previously had little contact, and has personally instigated multiagency training in areas like motivational interviewing, selfharm awareness and brief interventions.
‘No one trains the police on selfharm, which is really a problem for a lot of young people. By sitting down with a police officer not in uniform, a youth worker, a street pastor perhaps, you break down a lot of professional boundaries. Choosing the right personnel is the other issue.’
StaySafe also operates at major events using an outreach model, which means that prevention and personal safety information can be made available to thousands of young people at a time, and anonymous data passed on to agencies such as trading standards to curb underage alcohol sales. SarahJane has invested a considerable amount of her own time in setting up 15 major StaySafe initiatives since 2011, on top of her role as a Team Manager in the Youth Offending Service.
Distrust of the police, however, meant that in some cases it was hard to win over local voluntary agencies. ‘We have an event called the Cardiff Big Weekend, a free music festival over three nights,’ she says. ‘For an event like that we’ll mobilise a multidisciplinary team, pay for a paediatric nurse and go out arminarm with the police and youth offending services. Two years ago that wouldn’t have happened. In the old days the youth services might have suggested that the police were criminalising the kids, or the police might have suggested that the youth services were colluding with the kids, so we just had to find some common ground. We realised that everyone wanted the same outcomes.’
The number of young people going to A&E has been reduced at all major events, and calls to the police on occasions like bonfire night are also down significantly. Raising awareness in the right way can be a challenge, however. ‘Our local press is probably no different to any other, and newspapers tend to like bad news about young people. We’re hoping that this is seen as a positive thing rather than “kids are putting themselves in so much danger that they have to be looked after by this scheme”. We’re there for a good reason, not because kids are bad.’
What advice would she offer to anyone trying to set up a similar project? ‘It’s about having the ability to do a lot of legwork and meet with people at the right level. Having people at the same level as you at different organisations who can enforce a little bit of change but are prepared to roll their sleeves up, rather than senior managers who might say yes and then forget about you from one week to the next. The people involved are grafters who want to make a difference – we just get on with it, so personal relationships and keeping in regular contact make a big difference.’
Her aim now is for the scheme to become an established part of the process among event organisers. ‘We’re getting close to that,’ she says. ‘We also do a lot of work with some of the big shopping malls – they’ll use us as a sort of fourth emergency service when there’s an escalating problem. We’re visible, we’re on the streets, so we’re able to manage situations a lot quicker. We’re impacting on police resources and A&E in a good way, taking work off them.’
So how does she feel about the Award? ‘I’m very excited. This is one of the first years that the Butler Trust has expanded into youth justice systems, so not only is it an honour to get the Award itself but it’s great being one of the first people in the youth justice system to get it. It recognises all the hard work so I’m very happy, and it will also give us a really big platform to publicise what we’re doing, because we’re a project that aims to be very visible. Hopefully it will help spread the project model further afield as well – I’d like to see other areas use the information sharing model we’ve created.’
For more information: contact Cardiff Youth Offending Service