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Award for Head of Youth Offending Service


Cllr Bill Dixon (L), Jo Benson (centre) and PCC Ron Hogg (R)

Jo Benson, Darlington Borough Council’s Youth Offending Service Manager has been granted the prestigious Butler Trust Award for being an outstanding leader. The Butler Trust was set up to recognise and celebrate outstanding practice by those working with offenders. The award will be presented by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal in April.

The Youth Offending Service was described as ‘one of the best in the country’ by the Butler Trust. Darlington has seen the number of youth offences continue to drop from a peak in 2006/7.

Jo leads a multi-agency team of 26 members of staff from the Council, the police, probation and health colleagues. Jo has been praised for her high calibre innovative approach, including working on early intervention with young people in schools, on top of the previously recognised use of restorative justice for low level offences. Also praised was the close partnership work with Durham University which involves ‘master classes’ delivered to undergraduates by YOS staff, as well as research into key youth offending issues by students. This innovative approach has led to a significant decrease in the number of youth offenders entering the system.

Another member of the team, PC Deborah Goad, also received a commendation from the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary for her outstanding work in reducing youth offending.

Jo said: "It is a huge honour to have been granted this award, I am very proud of the great achievements of the team. The important thing is that we’re helping young people to turn their lives around and turn their back on crime. This is only the beginning and I will continue to lead to deliver more, in order to divert young people away from offending and helping them move forward to lead fulfilled and positive lives".

Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council said: “The Youth Offending Service is a fantastic team that Darlington can be proud of. Congratulations and thanks to Jo for her excellent leadership.”

Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “This is a tremendous achievement and very much deserved. I am delighted Jo’s dedication and commitment to youth justice across Darlington has been recognised nationally.”

As part of the nomination process Jo was interviewed along with 44 others in London by - Sir Michael Harrison, Chair of Awarding Panel, Butler Trust Trustee and former High Court Judge, Phil Wheatley former Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, Meg Blumsom former Probation Chief Executive and Head of Programmes at the National Offender Management Service and Geoff Dobson former Deputy Director and Company Secretary for the Prison Reform Trust. Jo was chosen as one of only ten to be granted with the award.

A spokesperson from the Butler Trust said: “It is extremely encouraging to note that, even in challenging times, the youth justice, prison and probation services remain full of people who strive to make a difference – and in Joanne’s case, her dedication to transforming the service and her commitment to the welfare of the young people in her care really shone through.”


Contact Darlington Borough Council’s Communications Unit on 01325 406058 or email: communications@darlington.gov.uk

Posted on Monday 19th January 2015
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