A PROJECT which has helped slash crime levels on a Blackburn housing estate is to form part of a blueprint for a national scheme to keep young offenders out of prison.

The Home Affairs Select Committee examining alternatives to jail is to visit Youth Works on the Roman Road estate on Monday.

Since the project was set up in 1995 it has contributed to a drop in crime on the estate by 35 per cent and a reduction in youth nuisance of 95 per cent. Repair bills for properties owned by North British Housing on the estate have also fallen by up to 60 per cent.

Home Secretary and Blackburn MP Jack Straw personally endorsed Youth Works' approach to youth crime when he visited Roman Road in October.

Six MPs from constituencies across the country will visit Youth Works. They will be given a presentation about the project, visit sites of interest on the estate and have an opportunity to meet volunteers working with the scheme.

They will also meet representatives of Blackburn with Darwen Council and other agencies which support the initiative.

Youth Works, run by Groundwork in partnership with Crime Concern and Marks and Spencer, gets young people aged eight to 21 involved in confidence-boosting projects to improve their local physical and social environment.

Catherine Wright, of Youth Works, said: "A large element of the programme is the empowerment of local volunteers. A comprehensive training programme offers local young adults and parents the opportunity to become involved in many areas of the project.

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