Project diverting teenagers from serious organised crime launches in Edinburgh

An award-winning project working to divert young people away from a life in organised crime has begun work in Edinburgh.

  • Edinburgh first part of a UK-wide roll-out for internationally recognised project diverting young people away from a life in serious organised crime
  • Former young offenders act as ‘peer mentors’ to help children escape from a life of serious organised crime
  • Analysis shows fewer than one in 10 young people reoffended after involvement in the programme
  • Run by Action for Children and funded with £4.6m from The National Lottery Community Fund, the project will target ‘high-risk’ 11-18-year-olds in Edinburgh.

Action for Children’s Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service has been running in Glasgow since 2013. As part of a roll-out to areas across the UK, funded by £4.6 million from The National Lottery Community Fund, it will now support young people in Edinburgh on the cusp of organised crime.

The internationally recognised project uses ‘peer mentors’, many themselves former young offenders, to support young people on the cusp of organised crime. Analysis into the programme has showed that out of 49 young people supported over a year, just four offended after receiving support. Now launching in Edinburgh, the service will offer targeted support to 11 to 18-year-olds through intensive one-to-one support, peer mentoring, education and employment training.

Since launching in Glasgow in 2013 the project has worked with more than a 150 young people. The service was created by Paul Carberry, the charity’s Director for Scotland, after he was invited to join the Scottish Government’s ‘Serious Organised Crime Task force’. There, he chairs the ‘Divert’ strand which has the objective of diverting young people from becoming involved in Serious Organised Crime and using its products.

In 2017/18, a study from Glasgow City Council showed that by diverting four ‘high risk’ young people from secure care, the project represented a saving of over half a million pounds for the council over a six-month period. (see Notes to Editors).

In November 2019 the project won the ‘Young People’s Project of the Year’ at the Herald Society award and this was followed up with the ‘Excellence’ award in December at the prestigious European Social Services Awards.

Councillor Alison Dickie, Education Vice Convener of Education, Children and Families for the City of Edinburgh Council, and one of the two elected members on their Public Protection Committee, said: “There is absolutely nothing more important than protecting our children and the success Action for Children have achieved with this project cannot be under-estimated.

“Serious organised crime has a significant impact on the lives of young people, their families and local communities. This project works by intervening early and helping vulnerable young people who risk getting dragged into a downward spiral of crime which they then can’t escape.

“It is right that Edinburgh has been chosen as the next city to benefit from the service and I’m convinced it will have a positive impact on turning some of our most vulnerable young people’s lives around. As part of this work, it is essential that we raise awareness and increase training for professionals in this area so that they can spot the signs of young people being exploited before it’s too late.

“The Council works really closely with police, schools and other partners in tackling and preventing crime and this new project will significantly build on the positive work already taking place in Edinburgh.”

Paul Carberry, Action for Children Director for Scotland and chair of the ‘Divert’ strand of the Serious Organised Crime Task Force, said: “We are very proud to be launching our Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service to Edinburgh.

“Each year, we will be working with 80 young people in Edinburgh. Many of these young people are heavily embedded in organised crime, growing up in families where organised crime has been a generational thing. So, for them, it isn’t a quick fix, they require a prolonged period of work and have previously refused to work with other statutory services. We recognise the need to give young people alternatives, we need to get them into employment and get them the right support and help.

“We believe that the best way to do this is by example and giving young people role models who have been on the journey themselves and our ‘Peer Mentors’ are our most powerful tool. Since 2013, this project has worked intensively with more than 150 young people across Glasgow, diverting them away from a life in serious organised crime and into positive opportunities including education, training and employment. The role of Peer Mentors has been critical to that.

“We are proud to be now working in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to deliver this ground-breaking work. When it comes to dealing with serious organised crime, Scotland is leading the way. Now, thanks to funding from The National Lottery, we are able to deliver this work in Edinburgh.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP said: “It is essential to do everything possible to prevent children and young people being drawn into serious organised crime and to stop the cycles of lifetime offending.  The fact that fewer than 1 in 10 of those supported by this project went on to reoffend is testament to powerful role that peer-mentors play in encouraging young people to make positive life choices. I congratulate Action for Children, the National Lottery and other partners in extending this life-changing and potentially life-saving project to Edinburgh.”

Neil Ritch, National Lottery Community Fund Director for Scotland, said: “The Serious Organised Crime Early Intervention service is a great example of a successful service which began in Scotland and is now being replicated in other areas of the UK, thanks to £4.6 million of National Lottery funding. I’m delighted that Edinburgh is one of the places that will be able to benefit from this expansion which will give many more young people the opportunity to make positive life changing choices.”

The project will be rolled out in Newcastle and Cardiff in April 2020.

Notes to Editors

1) Calculation is based on report in 2017/18: Cost of secure estimated at £5,000 per week (£5000 x 26 weeks (six months) is £130,000 per person. The Action for Children service has worked with young people this accounting period at an approximate cost of £3,125 per young person per annum. The cost for six months service is therefore £1,562.50 per young person. The cost of six months service for four young people likely to have been otherwise incarcerated is therefore £6,250. Subtracted from the cost of six months secure care for four young people at £520,000 this equals a cost saving of £513,750.

About Action for Children

Action for Children in Scotland works directly with more than 20,000 children, young people, parents and carers each year.  With 89 services in Scotland, we are in communities where you live and work. We help transform the lives of thousands of children and young people each year and we’ve been doing so for 60 years. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @actn4childrScot.

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.



Published: February 12th 2020