FORGET knitting and jam-making, Faith Marriott would much rather spend her time helping to guide the youth of today towards a better start in life.

While some people would run a mile at the thought of meeting young offenders, Faith can often be found on the streets of Lancashire with them, cleaning up graffiti and picking up litter.

The grandmother-of-four dedicates her days to helping young people get back on the right track in her role as Youth Justice Team Manager for charity Child Action North West.

The Wilpshire-based organisation began as a Blackburn orphanage in 1886 and now provides foster care and support services for youngsters in need and their families.

Faith works with youths taken into custody and has been instrumental in setting up a restorative justice scheme called The Triage Service.

The scheme, piloted in Burnley, Blackburn, Darwen and Preston, involves the charity bringing in criminal justice workers to help children while they are in police custody.

She is only 5ft 3in, but Blackburn-born Faith says society shouldn’t be intimidated by teenagers.

“I don’t get frightened by them. I can give as good as I get and at the end of the day we are quick to label them yobs but we forget that they are just children who just need some help,” said the 50-year-old.

The service aims to give youngsters who have committed less-serious crimes the chance to avoid getting a criminal record if they admit their guilt.

They set up a programme of support and look at ways to prevent them committing further crimes, such as providing housing accommodation and community work.

The programme has now been rolled out across Lancashire and plans are in place to expand the initiative at a national level.

Faith explained: “The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the people that we help turn their lives around.

"We may have someone who is on the path to committing crimes but with the right direction they may end up in further education and helping other youngsters avoid getting into trouble with the police.”

Faith says her inspiration to help young offenders came from her childhood growing up in Mill Hill, Blackburn.

“I saw a lot of children go off the rails when I was growing up,” said Faith, who now lives in Chorley.

“There was nowhere for children to go so they just congregated on the streets and at that time there was nothing in place to help them stay on track.

"I wanted to be able to help the children and the communities they live in by stopping them turning to crime.”

The motivation to change careers from working as a civil engineer came from her five children.

“I just remember thinking that if it was my kids who got into trouble, I hoped there would be someone looking out for them.”

Faith was recently recognised for her dedication and success in reducing levels of youth crime across Lancashire when she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

But the modest youth worker insists she is only doing her job.

She added: “When I opened the letter from the Home Office I was bowled over by the gesture.

"I am incredibly humbled and have absolutely no idea who has nominated me.

"I would love to meet whoever it was so I can say thank you.

"After getting over my initial surprise, I now hope that by accepting this award it will raise awareness of the importance of the work by the whole team that I work with at a crucial time of cuts to young people’s services.”

Contact Child Action North West, Whalley Road, Wilpshire, on 01254 244700.