Young People Help Decide How Cash Seized from Criminals is Spent

Nineteen year old Chelsea Brain from Ebbw Vale and 18 year old Dylan Hurter from Brynmawr were selected by their peers at the Blaenau Gwent Youth Forum to sit on Gwent PCC Ian Johnston's Partnership Fund decision making panel.

The Commissioner's Partnership Fund grant scheme is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. A staggering 500 applications were submitted in the latest round (June 2014) from charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities.

In addition to members of the team from the PCCs office, Chelsea and Dylan were joined by Karl Reed from the Positive Futures organisation on the seven strong decision making panel. The group met for the third and final time today and they had their work cut out sifting through the last of the 500 applications submitted which amounted to a total of nearly £1.25 million. The successful projects will be announced by the Commissioner later this month.

Groups who applied for a share of the funding had to demonstrate the positive impact their project would have on their community whilst contributing to delivering the Commissioner's priorities for Gwent which include reducing and preventing crime; taking more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm. Each group was able to apply for funding up to the region of £10,000.

Eighteen year old Dylan Hurter joined the Blaenau Gwent Youth Forum a year ago. The A Level student is also currently the Deputy Youth Mayor for Blaenau Gwent.

Delighted to be a part of the decision making process, Dylan, said: "Being selected by the forum to sit on this decision making panel has provided me with an awesome opportunity to play a vital part in deciding how money taken from criminals should be invested back in the community where it can make a positive difference.

The biggest challenge for me has been to try and take my heart out of it because you hear about some of these projects and you think they deserve all the funding they can get. That's been one of the toughest challenges for me personally due to the volume and quality of applications we received. Our job is to make a big difference with relatively little money in comparison to the applications we received."

Chelsea Brain from Ebbw Vale only joined the youth forum two months ago and will be heading off to Swansea University to study Mathematics this month. The 19 year olds numeracy skills have certainly been put to the test over the last week.

"I think these projects will definitely improve people's lives in the community and I would personally love to be involved with some of them in the future myself," said Chelsea.

"The most challenging and positive aspect of being on the panel was that everyone had different views about where the money should go. There have been some difficult decisions to be made along the way and some healthy debates amongst the panel members about which projects would make the biggest impact.

We took everyone's opinion into account before we made any decision."

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "This has been a fantastic opportunity for these young people to be part of a process that can make a genuine difference to people's lives in Gwent. Young people are the future of our communities after all and it is only right they should have a say on where the money goes.

It is humbling that we received so many applications and to see how many projects genuinely need this money in Gwent. It shows there is a real need for my Partnership Fund and it is fitting to see money recovered from criminals going back to benefit local communities."

Echoing the Commissioners comments, Dave Rees, the Blaenau Gwent Engagement and Children Rights Officer, said: "The Commissioner should be commended for involving young people in this panel.

Approximately 35% of the population are children and young people. Therefore, providing them with a say on decisions that affect them sends out a clear message that they are valued citizens."