A charity working to reduce the impact of crime on people and communities is seeking to create a new multi-agency model to help people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities who encounter the criminal justice system.
NIACRO (the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) is one of five organisations chosen to take part in the Social Innovation Skills programme, funded by the Building Change Trust and delivered by WorkWest and Enterprise North West.
It argues many people from BME communities experience considerable practical, social, emotional difficulties in the criminal justice system as victims of crime, offenders or as witnesses.
NIACRO says that many people from BME communities come from cultures that do not trust police and there remain high levels of residual fear of the PSNI, even when they are offering support or gathering information.
Ruth Walker, NIACRO’s Business Development Manager says that a co-ordinated effort is needed to support BME communities to engage with the criminal justice system.
NIACRO’s plan is to use existing organisations and strategies related to BME and migrant communities to tackle their difficulties with criminal justice.
She said: “We propose to include the South Belfast Round Table (as drivers of End Hate Crime Training and an organisation embedded in BME communities across South Belfast), the Law Centre and the Quakers who run prison befriending services, and, together apply design thinking to this complex societal problem in the Northern Ireland context”.
NIACRO has, in partnership with a range of organisations including the Probation Board, submitted a business plan for a programme incorporating restorative justice for victims and offenders of hate crime.
It believes that applying design thinking to this problem will add value to its Peace Programme, particularly in how victims of crime are supported through and benefit from positive outcomes of restorative justice.
NIACRO will join four other organisations in the Social Innovation Skills Programme.
Work West and Enterprise North West are delivering an intensive training and mentoring programme to equip the organisations with problem solving skills. The teams will then be brought together for a full day Social Innovators Mentoring session to refine and evaluate their ideas, and identify next steps.
Once the programme is completed, all teams can apply for a Social Innovation NI seed fund worth up to £15k to enable them to transform their ideas into reality.