Young people who offend have been making amends for their behaviour by raising money in aid of a pioneering North-East charity.

The youngsters raised £500 towards the work of the North East Autism Society (NEAS), by making a variety of handicrafts throughout 2019 and 2020, after being referred to the County Durham Youth Justice Service, which Durham County Council helps to run.

Tom Walls, a reparation officer for the Youth Justice Service, said: “We give the young people we work with time to reflect on their behaviour, and a chance to make good the harm they may have caused.

Where possible, we’ll ensure they directly repair damage they have caused – such as by mending a vandalised fence – or contributing to a community project, but the pandemic has made this sort of thing much more difficult to arrange.

“In a lot of cases this year and last, they’ve worked at our workshop in the county, where they’ve been doing some good by making garden planters, bird boxes, and Christmas ornaments to raise money for charity.”

It is hoped that this and similar manners of early intervention by the Youth Justice Service will help young people to avoid re-offending in the future.

The young people the service works with – all aged between 10 and 18 years old – may be referred for anything up to 200 hours reparative work.

Mr Walls added: “We were particularly pleased that when we asked the young people currently with us what charity they would like to donate the proceeds of their work to, the majority said the North East Autism Society.

“It really impressed us that they had such an awareness of autism, and of the good that NEAS does in our region.”

Sophie Clarke, community fundraiser for NEAS, said: “We were very happy and grateful to be chosen. It’s heartening to know that autism awareness, acceptance, and support is clearly a priority for many young people.

On behalf of everyone at NEAS, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped to raise this money, including Tom and his team. Fittingly, it will be going to support our family and young adult services. We sincerely hope that their experience with the Youth Justice Service, and their kind support of NEAS, will help these young people make good choices in their futures, and we wish them the best of luck.”

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “These young people have made a commendable effort to raise money and show their support for a local cause that helps many people in the North East.

“Their awareness of autism and their desire to support the North East Autism Society is fantastic, and I am sure their efforts will be well-received and will contribute to a great deal of support for others.

“It is great to see that young people who may not have had the most positive start have been able to contribute to something rewarding, and I hope their experience with the Youth Justice Service will carry with them for a more positive future.”