A PIONEERING and guidance system for young men in the criminal justice system across Oxford has been launched in Blackbird Leys.

National charity abandofbrothers has taken up residence in the community centre and is about to begin a three-month course pairing local youths with trained mentors.

It was first formed in Brighton in 2008 due to concerns with escalating 'self-destructive and anti-social' behaviour among men aged 18 to 25.

Anthony Hearn, who will be project lead for Oxford, said: "They recognised that the biggest risk and the largest chunk of damage was coming from young men.

"There was a lack of role models and positive figures in Western society, but not indigenous cultures, and the real difference between the two was a rite of passage."

In January this year about eight men from across Oxfordshire went through a training programme to develop their mentoring skills and emotional intelligence.

They were joined by 18 more in May who, from next Thursday (13/10), will begin to be matched with young men looking to turn their lives around.

Mr Hearn said: "What we do is mostly work alongside the young men on their journey, and try to provide that positive role model encompassing what it is to be a man."

So far six young men currently going through the probation service have signed up and there is still time for more to join in.

After a series of weekly one-to-one sessions in Blackbird Leys Community Centre they will join the rest of the 'circle' to take on community work.

Later in the year two large-scale events in which the group tackles a community project such as fence-painting, restoring a playground or working on a garden area will be held. Organisers are also trying to secure an allotment for participants to use in their spare time.

Social care manager Dave Lewis, from Didcot, was motivated to sign up as a prospective mentor in January as he had recently become a father.

The 33-year-old said: "The training was life-changing for me. In social care we create a professional boundary but I feel I'm now able to present more authentically.

"I hope the young men will be getting a sense of community, and acceptance. There's nothing they can't bring to our circle and our community."

There is still time to sign up to the first course in Blackbird Leys. Anyone aged 18 to 25 and in the probation service can join by emailing oxford@abandofbrothers.org.uk