A practitioner sitting with a young girl on a park bench having a conversation

How Hannah helps to keep children out of the criminal justice system

Published on
26 September 2023

Our RISE service is an early intervention mentoring service for 10–17-year-olds in Cumbria. RISE (which stands for Resilience, Individual Support, Empower) aims to keep children away from the criminal justice system by supporting them to make better choices. We spoke with Hannah Wilkinson, Team Manager for the RISE service, to talk about how RISE helps keep children out of contact with the police.

How the RISE service works

The RISE service began in April 2022 offering early intervention mentoring to support children to understand the issues they might be dealing with, as well as to support them in gaining skills and confidence around managing conflict and making positive life choices. Most importantly, RISE offers children a safe space and a trusted person to talk to.

“RISE was commissioned by the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) in Cumbria because he saw a need for early intervention support for children. These children are coming in for support having taken part in risk-taking behaviour or low-level criminal behaviour and our service seeks to prevent them from committing more serious offences,” Hannah said.

Addressing aggression and anti-social behaviour early on

When talking about who’s supported by the RISE service, Hannah explained that referrals only come in via Cumbria’s Child-Centred Policing Teams which means these children will be known to the police in some way. The most common issues children come to RISE with are aggression or anti-social behaviour like causing damage in the community, underage drinking, or vaping. Children could also be involved in ‘malicious communications’, meaning they could be bullying their peers over social media, sending inappropriate images, shouting racially aggravated abuse, or using derogatory language towards female teachers in school.

“Most of the children we work with have some issues with a bit of all of those things, so our work is really all about addressing that behaviour early on and having conversations with these children about what they’re doing,” Hannah said. “Sometimes, they just don't know what they're doing is wrong – some of them do, and then it's a bit more of a challenging piece of work. Most of the time, it's just about actually having those conversations to get them to consider the impact of their behaviour on others and themselves.”

I have grown up a lot, matured. I’m a lot more in control.

a child commenting on how RISE has helped them

Diving below the surface to understand what drives anti-social behaviour

“There isn’t just one thing that's driving anti-social behaviour but oftentimes, a child will have experienced some kind of trauma. We see a lot of children who are dealing with issues within the family like abuse or neglect, or their home life is just chaotic; they might be getting bullied, they could be suffering from poor mental health, or they could be having relationship problems.

When we’re trying to understand where a child’s behaviour is coming from, it’s like diving below the surface of an iceberg. At the tip of the iceberg is the anti-social behaviour but under the surface is what life is really like for that child and how they feel, as well as any trauma or difficult experiences they’re coping with.

Hannah Wilkinson

Team Manager for the RISE service

Hannah explained how RISE offers support in tackling some of the underlying issues that may be causing anti-social behaviour. “As part of our holistic approach, we also connect children to other kinds of support, resources, or activities that they would benefit from to keep them moving in a better direction.

“If a child is having a hard time because they’re hungry, we will take food to them or help their families to access food banks. We also support families to buy essential furniture or household appliances if we think that will help to have a positive impact for the child.”

“It feels like Cumbria gets forgotten about sometimes,” Hannah said, as the lack of youth centres in Cumbria often leaves children without many options to have fun and be themselves. “I think because we are so rural here, there are issues with children not having a lot to do. We see kids messing around but they might veer into inappropriate behaviour and then the police get involved. I really do feel that these kids need more chances to get involved in something positive with other children."

What does support look like?

RISE interventions typically take place over 10 sessions, beginning with a few ‘getting to know you’ sessions and then moving on to cover whichever areas the child wants to discuss, like healthy relationships, well-being, anti-social behaviour, or knife crime. These sessions usually happen in school because the child might not feel like they can fully open up at home. RISE practitioners also have sessions where they’ll go for a coffee, a walk, or whatever they want to do to help the child feel comfortable about speaking honestly.

Going through stuff slowly help[ed] me understand what was going on more.

a child commenting on how RISE has helped them

Hannah recalled a 15-year-old named Jon* who was initially very violent at school and at home. “On his referral form, he sounded like somebody to be scared of. Our practitioner Louise* held his sessions with him at his home and they went out on walks quite a lot in the very rural area where he lives. After getting to know him, Louise said that Jon was a caring and funny child, but she could tell that he lashes out when he’s frustrated, so she continued working with Jon to understand what was causing his frustration.

Together, they talked about what was really going on for Jon and he eventually opened up about his worries about his academic abilities and his future prospects as a result. His frustration nearly caused him to give up on his last few months of school, but Louise encouraged him to sit his final exams – so, he did.

And when Jon got to the end of school, Louise worked with him to think about his future and to help him improve his relationship with his parents. They worked through a lot of difficult conversations about what Jon’s parents wanted from him and how that might not be what he wanted for himself. Now, everyone is getting on so much better in the home  – Jon’s parents have even told us they feel like they’ve got their child back,” she said.

What do you want people to know about the RISE service?

In this first year that RISE has been supporting children, the office of the Police & Crime Commissioner has reported that 65.5% of the children involved in RISE have not come back to police attention in any way.  “Through our work, we know how important it is to not just look at the crime that a child might have committed but to look at the whole picture of what’s going on for that child. By focusing on building strong, trusted relationships with the children we support, we can best advocate for them.”

I am a good person.

a child commenting on what they’ve learned about themselves from their RISE support

“I also want to stress that although children might be engaging in these kinds of behaviours, they are still children at the end of the day. And that doesn't mean that they should get away with harmful behaviours but it's an acknowledgement that they should be treated as children,” Hannah said.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the child involved

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