A PROJECT dealing with young offenders has halved the number of youths passing through some of the region's courts over the past five years.

A team of Government inspectors looked at Durham County Council's Youth Engagement Service, formerly its Youth Offending Service.

Their report, published this week, praises the service and its partners.

Christina Blythe, head of the service, said: "This twin- track approach of engagement and enforcement has been recognised by the inspectors and confirms that prevention is better than cure."

The multi-agency service, which has 150 staff and 75 volunteers, works with young people, victims and families.

It helps young people develop key skills, such as literacy, numeracy, ICT, working with others and problem solving.

The inspection team, including experts from education, social services, the police, probation, health and prisons services and the Audit Commission, said the county's project is one of the most effective in the UK.

The report singled out for praise its exceptional performance in preventing re-offending, and its record of working with parents and with victims of crime.

The team also found that young people felt listened-to and supported, and showed a positive change in attitude.

Parents too were satisfied with the programmes they had attended through the Youth Engagement Service, and many of them said it had helped them cope better with their children.