A London hostel where teenagers with family problems can stay for a four-night break, should be adopted as a national initiative to help young offenders, campaigners said yesterday.

The centre at Combwell Crescent, Greenwich, has provided temporary accommodation for young people at their own or their parents' request, for the past five years. The aim is to give the family a few days breathing space after rows, while not permanently taking the young people away from their home and friends.

When the teenager returns home, trained social workers at the centre continue to provide counselling and support for the whole family.

Greenwich borough council believes the hostel, which has a total staff of 10 and caters for five youngsters at a time, has saved many children from becoming runaways and ending up on the streets.

Although the Greenwich service is aimed at families, experiencing a range of problems, from arguments to abuse, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) says the successful scheme should be a blueprint for every local authority and adapted to support families and young delinquents as part of a programme to stop them re-offending.

In its policy paper Partnership with Parents in Dealing with Young Offenders, the pressure group highlights the Greenwich project as 'a way of supporting parents during periods of difficulty by offering respite and attempting to resolve conflicts between parents and young children'.

Frank Warburton, head of crime and social policy at Nacro said this structured support network could actually help to reduce re-offending.

A scheme has been launched in Bolton organised on the principles of Greenwich, but aimed at young offenders and their families.

Mr Warburton said 'Nacro wants to see these kinds of respite centres in every local authority. The Government should allocate extra funds for this purpose.'

Susanna White, assistant director for children and families, at Greenwich, said: 'Although our centre is for teenagers with all sorts of family problems we are very pleased that Nacro has found our project useful.

She warned that the main problem hindering such schemes was the difficulty of recruiting qualified staff.

'It is a difficult area to work in and nationwide there is a shortage of social workers trained to and wanting to take such work on.