YOUNG offenders in North Tyneside are being given the chance to turn their lives around by using local firefighters as role models.
The youngsters, who have all been referred by the North Tyneside Youth Offending and Prevention Service, will attend the four-day Phoenix Project run by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service this week.
The course will educate the group about the dangers of fire, fire starting and hoax calls.
It also aims to help them towards possibly gaining employment or full-time training, as well as prevent them from committing further offences.
The Phoenix Project was established in 2000 in Sunderland in response to the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service pioneered the course, which is now replicated by many fire and rescue services across the country.
It has since set up a project in Newcastle and is now offering the same service in North Tyneside, thanks to funding from the North Tyneside Reward grant.
The project is aimed at young people aged between 11 and 17 years who are known to be offending or are at risk of offending.
The main aim of the programme is to change attitudes and behaviour, instil confidence and self-esteem, discipline and self-discipline, team working and social skills.
Watch manager John Ord is running the recently established Phoenix course in North Tyneside.
He said: “Since the course was introduced we have seen several successes with young people changing their lives for the better.
“It’s great that we can now offer young people in North Tyneside the same opportunity to turn their lives around.
“Many people think that youth offending is just a police issue, but it’s not, many young offenders also set fires.
“These don’t just put people’s property at risk or cause a nuisance – they can ultimately lead to people dying or being injured.”
Coun David Lilly, North Tyneside Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and learning, added: “I think it’s great news that this successful intervention is now being offered to young people in North Tyneside.”