Catch22 works nationally to address the multiple and complex issues that can lead to gang involvement. People engage best with a service that operates flexibly, so we offer a responsive and needs-led service, focusing not on the behaviour but its cause. The Dawes Unit brings together research, policy and practice to understand how to reduce the harm caused by gangs and gang-related crime.

Gangs and serious youth violence are a growing concern. Whilst they are the product of severe socio-economic deprivation, by creating a culture of violence and criminality they are simultaneously a key driver of social breakdown in the communities in which they thrive. Urban street gangs predominantly consist of young people in their mid to late adolescence, living in deprived communities often around friends and family members with a history of gang involvement.

Our approach

Our work targets and builds on young people’s strengths to prevent them becoming involved in gangs and provides a range of interventions for gang-involved young people to support them to exit.

Our gangs work combines research on policy and practice with direct delivery, both in the community and in custody. Using a relationship-based approach, our teams take account of the risks and needs of each service user and build on their strengths. Our schools work supports children at risk of or involved in gangs and we also support families and children who go missing and/or are experiencing sexual exploitation.

Our community and prison work takes an integrated multi-agency approach, including working with the police, and is informed by the best possible evidence. This enables our delivery teams in Wolverhampton and Bristol to effectively reduce the harms caused by gangs. Our teams engage offenders as part of our offender management and resettlement services in prisons and through the gate, supporting rehabilitation.

Dawes Unit: research and practice

The Catch22 Dawes Unit brings together research, policy and practice in order to understand how to reduce the harm caused by gangs and gang-related crime. The Unit aims to create a sustainable model for tackling gang and youth violence, meaning that every intervention is developed based on existing evidence in order to ensure the best chance of success.

Our recent report ‘Running the Risks’ sheds light on several forms of exploitation, examining the links between young people going missing from home, gang involvement, child sexual exploitation and the expansion of drug networks in a practice known as ‘county lines’.

Our community-based gangs work in Wolverhampton and Bristol engages individuals, families, schools and communities to support young people at risk of gang involvement and those looking to leave a gang. We take a whole family approach, building strong and consistent relationships with young people whilst focusing on improving educational and employment outcomes to develop existing strengths and manage risks.

Reducing gangs violence in prison

Catch22’s HMP Thameside Gangs Service was introduced in April 2013 to reduce the risk posed by gang-involved prisoners. Run by professionals with an extensive knowledge and understanding of gang culture, the service aims to capitalise on the ‘teachable moments’ prompted by prison sentences to encourage people to leave gang lifestyles behind. Specifically, the service targets coping and communication skills, and identifies positive educational and employment opportunities for people to pursue on release.

‘I am convinced that the work they have done has prevented serious harm to many prisoners. It is their drive and their understanding of the problem that has made Thameside the safe place that prisoners now consider that it is.’
John Biggin OBE, HMP Thameside Director

Our impact

  • 88% reduction in gang-involved violent incidents at HMP Thameside since the introduction of our Gangs Service
  • 49% reduction in service users reporting gang affiliation1
  • 67% reduction in offences1
  • 54% reduction in individuals not in school, training or employment1

‘The Gangs Service is a huge asset to Thameside. The team often conduct mediations between prisoners who have been involved in incidents of violence, which helps maintain the good order of the establishment.’
Head of Violence Reduction, HMP Thameside

Further information

1 Based on a sample of 48 service users in Wolverhampton

To protect identities, images are not specific to the stories but are of others involved with Catch22.

Case study

Following a period of intensive support from Catch22, James set out an action plan to address his alcoholism and gain the skills needed to provide for his family legally.

Read James's story

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