£1.4m funding to stop Suffolk youngsters being targeted by gangs
- Credit: Archant
A team which helps young people at risk of being exploited by gangs in Suffolk has been given a £1.4million boost to extend its work.
The Suffolk Against Gang Exploitation (SAGE) Team began work in 2018 to stop young people being targeted by "county lines" drug-dealers, who travel from inner cities like London to ply their trade in rural areas.
Since then, they have helped stop youngsters being targeted by criminals by giving them training in critical thinking skills, so they make better life choices.
The team is made up of Social Workers, Youth Justice Practitioners, Restorative Justice, Early Help Workers, Make a Change, Community Engagement Officers, training and employment worker and Psychology and Mental Health Workers.
Now, SAGE has been deemed so important that Suffolk Public Sector Leaders have pledged an additional £1.4million to the project's work for another three years.
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Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I was very pleased, as a member of the Suffolk Public Sectors Leaders group, to support this bid to continue funding the excellent work being carried out by the SAGE team.
“Preventing our young people being groomed by the gangs and criminals involved in the illegal drugs business is crucial to Suffolk’s future well-being.
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“Helping young people make the right choices as they enter adulthood has a positive impact on us all.”
Since starting up the SAGE team has worked with 60 at risk children and with their families.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council who heads the SAGE Team said the risk for exploitation usually comes from outside young people's homes.
He added: "The SAGE team built up a wealth of experience and skill in working with at risk children and families.
"Starting by building up trust, taking time to understand their individual situations and to learn what would help.
"The risks to these children usually come from outside their homes, so the team often works with them in the community to help them navigate and stay safe in the complex and difficult situations they can find themselves in.
"The SAGE team helped to build on the children’s strengths and encouraged them to be the best they can be.
"The team have supported children and families over a period of time and have seen some really positive results."
Councillor Paul West, chairman of the Safer Stronger Communities Board and Suffolk County Council cabinet member for communities, added: “The work being done by the SAGE team is of great importance in the battle against the exploitation of young people in Suffolk.
“I am pleased with the additional funding and the support from all partners.
"We must stop at nothing to drive out exploitation of young people on our own doorsteps.
“We are building on some of the success and good practice already achieved but the funding allows us to move our work to the next level.”
The new work programme will run from April 2021 until March 2024.