This multiple award-winning service offers intensive support to vulnerable young people to help them in the criminal justice system and those at risk. It works with young people exposed to or at risk of violence, vulnerability and exploitation. The work encompasses gangs work and family suppport as well as child exploitation and human trafficking.
It offers a tailored package of support for each young person to help them identify and realise alternative aspirations and goals. It also works with young people at risk of getting involved in the criminal justice system. SOS aims to help make the communities in which it works a safer place for everyone. Gang crime in particular has consequences beyond those directly involved. By supporting those young people who are the benefits are considerable, including reductions in weapons crime and innocent victims.
“For me, this opportunity has helped change my mindframe and thinking. If I hadn’t had it, there is a possibility I might have gone back to my old lifestyle. It’s also had a benefit on my partner and three children. They know I’m coming home now.” - Verrell, former SOS client who progressed to become SOS Caseworker
Watch a film about the work of the SOS Project:
The project was founded and developed in 2006 by Junior Smart and borne out of his own direct experiences of involvement in crime and a 12 year prison sentence. The majority of caseworkers on SOS are trained, reformed ex-offenders with first-hand experience of the issues their clients are facing. The work of SOS is delivered through a smaller teams based across London each carrying out targeted work. SOS works in partnership with statutory agencies across London such as local authorities.
The JBVC Southwark Through the Gates service
Supported by the Johnson Beharry Victoria Cross (JBVC) Foundation, our JVBC Southwark Through the Gates service supports young men with gang affiliations who have a connection to Southwark. It helps them upon leaving prison and aims to prevent them drifting back into old lifestyles.
Prior to their release, our Caseworker makes initial contact with young men identified in need of support. After an introductory meeting, she assesses their needs and risk. Typically, the young men need support to access employment and training. Many have potential but lack the confidence and aspirations to realise it fully.
The caseworker researches any opportunities and courses which are available and draws up a support plan in agreement with the young person. She will then offer support on release and following through in the community to help the young person stay motivated and engaged with the plan.
The aim of the service is to help young men at risk realise the alternatives to crime and pursue positive lifestyles.
Work in partnership with The Royal London Hospital and Barts NHS Health Trust
Two SOS caseworkers embedded in the major trauma unit of Royal London Hospital who offer support to young people who are admitted as a result of serious youth violence and sexual violence. This work supports the young person on discharge and in the community to help them stay safe and reduce the likeliood of future admissions. The caseworkers work closely with the clinical team in the hospital. This is a partnership project with Redthread.
Family Gangs Work
Through Lambeth’s Safer Stronger Families initiative we are supporting families in the borough affected by gangs. There are often wider family issues behind a young person’s involvement in gangs including poverty, housing problems, substance misuse at home and family separation. This project takes a ‘whole family’ approach and our caseworker supports the wider family to help overcome these issues whilst offering help to the young person.
Prevention through SOS+
SOS+ offers preventative work with young people at risk of gang crime, with the aim of preventing them becoming caught up in this lifestyle. Ex-offender volunteers trained through St Giles Trust work with schools in London to inform students on the dangers of getting caught up in gang crime - particularly with regard to weapons – de-glamorise the lifestyle, challenge myths and raise awareness. It also aims to equip young people with knowledge and skills to stay safe. It can provide one-to-one support to young people identified as being at risk.
LiVVE (Local Intervention: Violence, Vulnerability and Exploitation) is a 13 week schools’ project with Enfield Council and the Police’s Safer Schools Team. It offers intensive sessions with smaller groups of young people – up to 15 -who have been identified as being at risk of gang activity, exploitation or youth violence. Those who are at the highest risk are given one-to-one sessions in a longer term basis to improve their school attendance, behaviour and attitude and help prevent their future risk of exploitation and offending.
BRAVE (Building Resilience Against Violence and Extremism) is a partnership project run with ConnectFutures. It aims to address the often inter-related issues of gang involvement and vulnerability to extremism. It is offered to groups of young people in secondary schools, Pupil Referral Units and Further Education colleges. The first hour – run by St Giles Trust – focusses mainly on preventing gang exploitation. The second half - run by Connect-Futures - focuses on safeguarding against violent extremism, explaining the process of radicalism and disengagement. It focusses on recruiter techniques, including targeting and grooming.
STOP is a training programme aimed at professionals who would like to learn more about how to work with issues around gangs. The training sessions are offered by our SOS Team with direct first-hand experience in these issues. They can offer valuable insights from both a personal perspective and as practitioners who help gang-involved young people.
Expect Respect supports teenage girls and young women at risk of sexual exploitation, violence against women and girls and gang-related criminality. It runs female-only sessions on topics including sexual and domestic violence, healthy relationships and friendships, the consequences of offending, and how to access services in order to exit a gang. It can offer one-to-one support to vulnerable young women at risk to help them identify and work towards positive goals. Much of the work is around challenging negative stereotypes which exist amongst the girls’ peers and in wider culture, encouraging the young women to become powerful, supportive role models who can inspire each other. SOS also offers support where whole families are affected by gang activity to provide help to parents and siblings and minimise the impact of gangs on the rest of the family. Further information on this work and our Gamechangers project is available on our support for children and families page.