The YTS programme began in 2015 enabling at-risk youth in Nevis to gain essential skills which they need to improve their lives. Without a permanent home, the programme was dispersed and quite challenging to coordinate, oftentimes depending on the kindness of others in the community to provide venues to host the programme. Now that they have a place of their own, there is more structured engagement for youth in the programme which will allow them to develop life skills.
Within their new home, the Youth Skills Diversion Programme is focused on equipping youngsters with skills to gain employment, or to become entrepreneurs and to be more productive citizens. More than 90 youth have been trained through the YTS programme. Current programme offerings include:
- Pottery training in collaboration with the Historical and Conservation Society of Nevis.
- Digital jobs training facilitated by USAID/OECS JJRP.
- Heavy Equipment Operations.
- Soft skills: personal developmental sessions, interviewing, communication skills, and health awareness.
Social Services Director, Sandra Maynard, who is one of the key people responsible for the development of the programme and the set-up of the YTS infrastructure, commented,
“We (the Probation Division team in Nevis and I) have received invaluable training and best practice ideas from the Juvenile Justice Reform Project in both Phases One and Two, to support YTS. For the specific target group of young at-risk people, the programme is a much-needed initiative as these youth would otherwise be left out of opportunities for self-development. We have strived to provide a holistic approach [using] best practices in Juvenile Justice Reform, with a team trained in key areas to specifically help with developing the softer skills and working through the many issues impacting the youth. Our programme is currently being sustained by the Government of Nevis, and we are keen to continue the support and empowerment of our youth at risk.”
Senior Probation Officer in Nevis who has been involved in supporting the Youth at the YTS centre Leostone Morrison added,
“We know the programme works as we have seen many success stories coming out of YTS. Some [youth] have gone on to further their skills training and education at higher institutions, and many are now employed and keeping out of trouble.”
About OECS/USAID Juvenile Justice Reform Project Phase II (JJRP)
The Juvenile Justice Reform Project (JJRP) Phase II, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and being implemented by the OECS Commission, deals specifically with children in conflict with the law and the provision of diversion, rehabilitation and reintegration mechanisms for assisting children in the six (6) OECS independent Member States of Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Over the four years of JJRP Phase II, some key achievements include:
- Child Justice legislation passed in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
- A Legacy model and framework to guide the use of diversion, rehabilitation and reintegration has been developed and is being adopted in all of the countries.
- Diversion and rehabilitation options being actively supported within partner countries.
- Since 2016, 323 children have been diverted/given alternatives from arrest or custodial sentences, representing a more than 300% increase in the use of diversion.
- 215 children in conflict with the law completed Aggression Replacement Training (ART®).
More than 1,400 service providers have been trained to improve the diversion, rehabilitation, and reintegration services provided to children in conflict with the law and their families.