A YOUTH volunteer scheme aimed at breaking down the barriers between young people and the police is proving a big hit in Helensburgh and Lomond.

The Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV) have been meeting up for weekly sessions since December, made up of 24 children – 22 from Hermitage Academy and two from Lomond School.

In the early stages of the 10-12-week national training programme for 13 to 18-year-olds, the focus is very much on team bonding exercises and relationship building.

However, in time, it is hoped that the youngsters involved will gain a wide range of skills to help their own growth and development, as well as influencing other teenagers.

The Helensburgh group is run by the area’s new youth engagement officer, PC Stephen Carr, who replaced PC Craig Stamp just a few months ago.

And PC Carr is confident that the PSYV scheme - which was launched in 2014 - will make a huge difference to those taking part.

READ MORE: Moves to launch police youth volunteer group in Helensburgh.

He told the Advertiser: “There’s 44 PSYVs throughout Scotland at the moment and every group follows the national training programme, which involves things like drill, using radios and the phonetic alphabet. We want to try and make the learning fun for them.

“We want them to achieve something. It will give them a sense of purpose.

“There will be a passing out parade at the end of the programme, where proper uniforms will be provided, and it’s a great CV builder.

“There’s a couple who are absolutely adamant, even at this early stage, that this is what they want to do, so this gives them a great insight.

“We’ll be taking them to places like the dog branch, the MoD base, the control room, they’ll see the mountain rescue guys and the helicopter, they get to see all the different areas of the police, so it will give them an idea.

“We’re not gearing up towards them all joining the police, but if they already have a pre-existing interest in joining then it’s ideal.”

For those who may not be inclined to commit to a career with the police just yet, it is clear that the scheme offers a great deal more than simply improving future job prospects.

In their own words, the children have already boosted their confidence and communication skills, met new friends, learned more about the force whilst having fun, and gained a voice within the community.

By organising fund-raising occasions and supporting local events, the youngsters will able to set an example to others and, importantly, provide a positive impression of teenagers.

PC Carr added: “They’re a great bunch of kids, they’ve really taken to it and the possibilities are endless for the group.

“It’s their group, they tell us what they want to do or what they think is a good idea and we’ll go with it, we’ll listen to them.”

Having replaced PC Stamp - who was recently named officer of the year at the force’s national awards ceremony – PC Carr admits it will be a tough task to emulate his success but he is excited at the potential of his group.

READ MORE: Former Helensburgh-based policeman named officer of the year.

He said: “I’m a great believer in community policing, I think it’s the cornerstone of policing, I genuinely believe that and I’ve always thought that.

“Groups and schemes like this have a huge influence in eradicating problems with youth disorder and anti-social behaviour.

“I’m going to get these guys not just volunteering at events in the public, but also in the school, so that it really sends out the message and passes on that disorder is not acceptable.

“Kids are starting to realise that, the majority of kids are good kids and this will have a huge role to play in sending that message to them.

“It’s gives them a purpose, the uniform stands out and it can only have positive effects on the rest of the community.

“Craig [PC Craig Stamp] put a lot of work into launching it and now it’s my job to pick up the baton and really go with it and make sure that all the work he put in is followed through to make the group as successful as possible.

“I have big shoes to fill, because he did a great job.”

The group also incorporates eight adult volunteers, who are already seeing the benefits of the scheme.

Emma Whitfield, family liaison officer at Hermitage Academy, said: “I know some of the kids already and I’m interested in seeing what’s it about.

“It’s supporting young people and creating opportunities for them.

“It opens up so many opportunities for them if they get on board and it puts a bit of power into their hands because they need to come up with a lot of the activities.”

Tracey Ross said: “It will raise their self-esteem, their confidence, help them make friends and get to know each other and improve relations between teenagers and the police, which obviously aren’t always great.”

David Gordon added: “The main thing we’ve seen is the children opening up to each other.

“They all started off as shy individuals, but now they’re part of this group and coming out of their shells.”

Anyone with any upcoming events which may require a helping hand from volunteers should contact PC Carr at Helensburgh police station.