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Vital funding that will give children their futures back

In her latest blog, Alison talks about police finances and the Turning Corners project.

There is a certain amount of doom and gloom surrounding police finances at the moment. The autumn budget gave police chiefs around the country little to cheer about, and that came off the back of news that there was a sizable hole in pension funding.

It’s too early to say exactly what the numbers will mean for Devon and Cornwall – we won’t know the extent of the challenge facing us until we get our central government grant amount next week (December 6). What we do know is that my team has to work with our partners to fight for every scrap of money we can get our hands on to reduce crime and the impact of crime on victims. And the good news is we’ve been pretty successful in recent weeks.

It’s important to create a positive picture of what can be achieved with a well-thought-out funding bid, with a precise plan for what you might use that money for, rather than simply complaining that you want more money for policing - doesn’t every force?

When we win money for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we have the power to transform lives. A great example is the Turning Corners project, which this month was awarded over £500,000 worth of Home Office funding. The money will be used to help communities in South Devon tackle a problem with gangs or groups which have led them into contact with the police and to identify vulnerable individuals before they are exploited and enticed into these groups.

Evidence from elsewhere in the country shows that once inside a gang it can be hard to get out. Some of the country’s gangs, like those that run County Lines drugs operations between major cities and rural areas, are well organised money-making machines which are run like military outfits with uniforms, ranks and punishments meted out to those who don’t do as they are told.

When drugs have been seized gang members are upset, not because they are scared of the punishment that might be delivered by the criminal justice system, but because they will be in debt to a gang leader. Advice received by gang experts from London tell us that owing as little as £800 to a gang leader is enough for serious violence to be used as punishment. Either that or the debtor will be forced to deal more drugs to repay what they owe and trapped in a cycle of criminality and violence.

In towns still considered to be pleasant places to live and retire to - like Torquay, Newton Abbot and Kingsbridge – police and their partners have identified an opportunity to intervene before what is a serious issue affecting a few people escalates into the drug dealing and turf wars seen elsewhere in the country.

The team who put our funding bid together - comprising of specialist problem solvers, police officers and community safety partnership members - now have an intimate understanding of the issues that create a culture in which gangs can thrive and a plan to mitigate the harm caused by them.

There was much celebrating when we heard that the Turning Corners early intervention proposal put together by them  had won funding from the Police Transformation Fund to deliver two years’ worth of outreach work and education to tackle this emerging problem. In a competitive market it is a testament to the strength of the bid that it was one of just 18 projects out of more than 100 to receive funding in this round.

The money represents an investment in our young people that will give them all brighter futures, but more than this it’s an investment that will benefit the whole of South Devon and a wider society. As part of the bid the Community Safety Partnerships for South Devon and Torbay had to work out the financial implications of the project. If successful it will save the taxpayer significant amounts as it diverts people away from lives of crime.

But this isn’t about money. It goes far deeper than that. It’s about providing an alternative to the frightening reality faced by some parents when they realise that they are ceding control of their children to criminals. It’s about providing hope to teenagers who were promised fraternity and support and given instead fear and the prospect of a life behind bars once they reached 18.

Turning Corners is just one example of where my team and I have been involved in bidding for central Government money that will really make a difference to our communities. I wish the team behind it the very best of luck and hope that the young people they engage with can see a future that is secure, productive and happy.

Alison Hernandez