Rotherham is taking an early intervention approach to raise awareness about the impact of hate crime and to identify and work with those who might be on a journey to becoming hate crime offenders.
Using a specialist restorative justice provider to deliver both group and one-to-one interventions, partners are working together to change attitudes that may lead to hate across the borough.
Listening to the concerns of local communities about hate crime, Rotherham’s Community Safety Partnership, the Safer Rotherham Partnership, sought to reduce the impact of hate crime incidents by raising awareness to improve reporting and responses. With a range of different issues impacting on hate crime in Rotherham, partners were keen to identify opportunities for innovative approaches.
The Safer Rotherham Partnership identified that specialist provision would be well placed to tackle hate crime issues across the borough, and an approach that brought together communities, young people, the third sector and local institutions was most likely to have success.
The partnership commissioned Remedi UK – an organisation which specialises in restorative justice (RJ) approaches. Together Remedi and the Safer Rotherham Partnership devised a programme which operated in two parts:
- group work with young people to identify, establish and raise awareness of the impact of hate crime on communities
- one-to-one work with individuals identified as being vulnerable to becoming hate crime offenders.
Remedi commenced the programme of work with an event called ‘Step Up Beat Hate’, which brought young people together at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium to deliver creative activity around hate crime, culminating in an event with a variety of local celebrities and sports stars with strong media coverage.
Rotherham United football club have been a key partner to this work, with their credibility to the community helping support the objectives and the Rotherham United Community Sports Trust supporting linked initiatives, including awareness-raising at Rotherham United matches.
The group work is generally held at schools (one school in particular has put each one of 1,225 pupils through the programme) and is designed to be as interactive and inclusive as possible. The session is structured around an introduction to hate crime and protected characteristics; video clips to prompt discussion; and debate and discussion around the impact of hate crime on high profile individuals such as Raheem Sterling.
The content of the group work can be fluid to take account of emerging issues; for instance discussions have taken place around the murder of Sophie Lancaster, killed for her identification with Goth subculture; and transgender issues.
The one-to-one work is restorative in nature. Subjects could be convicted perpetrators of hate crime, or those who have been referred to the programme following identification of concerning behaviour or attitudes which might lead to future hate crime offending if left unchecked.
Facilitated by a dedicated hate crime practitioner who leads a three-session one-to-one programme to address the attitudes and behaviours of the individual, participants work through scenarios to help the subject understand the impact of their actions. Where identified, victims will be offered separate RJ interventions; often this takes the form of the victim asking questions indirectly to be posed to the offender by the RJ worker. In the first year of operations this was only available to young offenders; however the success of the programme helped secure a funding bid allowing the programme to be offered to adults.
The early intervention work with offenders and those at risk of offending has been likened to ‘a hate crime equivalent of the speed awareness course’. This has been communicated to communities and has been welcomed by them.
As is often the case with upstream interventions, it can be difficult to quantify impacts and outcomes of this work; this is particularly challenging regarding hate crime, which is generally under-reported.
Ideally the offender programmes would see a reduction in offending rates; this work is currently under evaluation, but the early indications are promising.
The group work has been a runaway success, with 1,389 young people participating to date against a target of 600.
The partnership had agreed to fund 40, one-to-one sessions; so far this year 37 have taken place, of which 30 have been under 18s. Feedback has been excellent so far.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Initially, the work was funded through a successful bid for Home Office Controlling Migration funding. With this coming to an end, partners agreed that as this work had been so positive they would continue to support this work to ensure its continuation into a second year.
Partners reported that the key learning for them was the importance of an educative response for those who are offending or at risk of offending. Communities in Rotherham were clear in their ask that the partnership focus their work with those at risk of being drawn into hate crime. Working with a third sector organisation such as Remedi has helped with engagement and credibility into the community and young people.
In terms of session content, working on the drivers of hate crime has been most productive – addressing the attitudinal changes in young people and seeking to change them is vital.
Whilst the programme is successful and effective, it is only meaningful if there is a steady flow of referrals; in particular it has been more difficult to engage with adults who have been referred. The partnership has learned the importance of training and awareness raising, with those who would be most likely to make referrals, such as local policing teams, youth offending teams and schools. A programme of training has taken place with the police, and it is hoped that this will begin to reap rewards in terms of future referrals.
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