Sadiq Khan praised the work of a Walthamstow youth group in inspiring young people to turn away from crime.

Spark2Life - the name comes from Sharing Positive and Relevant Keys to Life - works with disaffected young people in prison, coming out of prison and in the community.

The group works to eradicate crime and gang culture by working with young people across east London.

Mr Khan met with youth workers running Spark2Life and some of the young people who had benefited from the youth group on Friday.

They discussed how the Walthamstow group had transformed their lives as well as their ambitions and goals for the future.

Among these were young people who wanted to become lawyers, chefs and youth workers.

The group runs projects such as a prison in-reach programme where a youth worker mentors an inmate during their prison term and helps them back into the community.

Another project the group runs is working with 18 to 25 year olds who have been arrested in gang hotspots and have been associated with gang members.

These young people might have problems with mental health, housing or employment, or difficulties getting out of gang culture.

Mr Khan expressed his admiration at the work Spark2Life was doing around east London.

He said: “People have had their lives transformed by Spark2Life and that’s something I want to replicate across London.”

In February this year the mayor launched a £45 million Young Londoners Fund to support young people in communities who were at risk of getting caught up in crime.

Community groups like Spark2Life will be able to bid for funding to support local projects over three years.

Groups will have the opportunity to bid after the London local elections.

Mr Khan said he hoped Spark2Life and similar groups would apply for the funding.

He said: “Even small amounts of money can make a difference.”

This year in London alone the murder rate has risen above 50 but Mr Khan praised the Walthamstow youth group as in being instrumental in stopping people entering a life of crime.

He said: “Spark2Life can introduce you to people who were involved in gangs, involved in criminality and have had their lives transformed because of the intervention of Spark2Life.”

Group founder Dez Brown was involved in criminal activity from a young age but at age 18 turned his life around.

In 2017 he set up Spark2Life, which in the same year won the Youth Justice Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution in Tackling Youth Crime’.

Mr Khan added: “We should be optimistic about the potential to reduce violent crime, but we should also be optimistic about the potential of young people in groups like this, young people who want to help other young people.

“One of the things that really distresses me is that when I meet young people they think there’s no hope, there’s no alternative to a life of crime and my message is there is an alternative and if you want evidence of the alternative go meet some of the young people from Spark2Life.”