Boxing clever to tackle youth offending in Blackpool

A Blackpool teenager tested the boxing skills of the Deputy Prime Minister as the Government unveiled a funding boost in the resort aimed at giving a knock out blow to youth offending.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 20th May 2022, 12:05 am
Updated Friday, 20th May 2022, 9:33 am

Dominic Raab threw his best punches at 18-year-old Callum Penfolds as he joined young people at a sparring session at the Tab (Talbot and Brunswick) sports barn on Gorton Street, home of Blackpool Boys and Girls Club.

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Mr Raab was in Blackpool to help launch Turnaround, a national £300m initiative to tackle youth offending, including £60m for schemes to help stop youngsters falling into crime.

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Dominic Raab arriving in Blackpool

The minister, who is used to dodging swipes from his political opponents, was put through his paces by Callum whose verdict was that the deputy PM "has a good right hand and jab".

Callum, who trains youngsters at the Tab, said he hoped the funding would help local children.

He said: "I've seen 12-year-olds get arrested, so they are very young when they are getting into crime.

"But for those who come here, I train them and get them into football and boxing sessions. They come here and it helps them to stay out of trouble."

Deputy PM Dominic Raab visits the Family Hub and Sports Barn on Gorton St in Blackpool. He is pictured with 18-year-old Callum Penfolds.

Justice minister Victoria Atkins, a former pupil of Arnold School in Blackpool, who was also at the launch, said work by the police and youth offending team in the resort was already proving early intervention worked.

She said: "We know there are families in Blackpool that need a bit of help. and this very targeted help is about reaching those children on the cusp of criminality and catching them before they go onto a life of crime."

Ms Atkins said many child offenders suffered difficult upbringings so the aim was to "swoop in early" and make an impact so children would go on to live "happier and healthier lives."

Jed Sullivan, a youth worker at Blackpool Boys and Girls Club, said providing meaningful activities such as boxing training sessions had cut down on criminal behaviour.

Deputy PM Dominic Raab with Callum Penfolds.

He said: "In the last 12 months our outreach work has seen a 30 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour in the Talbot and Brunswick area.

"Youth workers were encouraging kids to make better choices, giving them something to do and somewhere to go and helping them make that journey from being a child to being an adult.

"But since we stopped delivering that programme when funding ran out at the end of March, we have seen the rates of anti-social behaviour go up again.

"So what we need is consistent funding to keep these programmes going."

Last September saw Blackpool's Youth Justice Service rated good by government inspectors, nearly three years after being branded inadequate.

Staff were praised for their commitment, with 'remarkable' improvements and some areas of the service now rated 'outstanding.'

Sara McCartan, head of adolescent services at Blackpool Council, said their work was aimed at preventing young people becoming offenders, which in turn would protect communities from anti-social behaviour.

She said: "We are providing them with positive activities to deter them from offending."

Linking up with the police enables troublemakers to be identified so information can be fed back to services such as Blackpool Families Rock, which works with a child's whole family to try and improve behaviour.

Kerry Fisher, team manager for the Youth Justice Service in Blackpool, said: "It's about understanding what it's like to be a child in Blackpool and what we can do to divert them away from offending.

"Because having a criminal record creates lots of barriers in later life, from trying to get a job to trying to get housing."

Mr Raab, who is also Secretary of State for Justice, said: "Diverting more young people from gangs, drugs and violence will make our streets safer."

Around 80 per cent of prolific adult offenders begin committing crime in their childhoods.

The new scheme will pay for mentoring, extra school tuition and sports clubs, and help address issues including poor mental health and substance misuse to tackle the root causes of criminal behaviour.