Displaying items by tag: Young People
Switchback is an intensive mentoring scheme currently working to help those who have been convicted of offences and are aged between 18 and 24 to make substantial and long-term changes after release. Switchback Mentors work alongside Trainees to help them rethink their lifestyles and push them to participate more constructively within society. Mentors stick by Trainees as they move through the prison gate, helping to both encourage and challenge them across all aspects of their lives. Switchback insist that their success is due to the fact that many Trainees have not experienced such frank, supportive, honest and unconditional relationships prior to the one they establish with their Mentor. They work in close partnership with the Skylight Cafe based in Spitalfields, London, in which the national homelessness charity, Crisis, have been providing training for many years – Switchback Trainees currently make up around half of the team there. Statistics show that most young adults who have offended are likely to return to custody, making the work of Switchback even more vital – on average, 58 per cent of young offenders are back in custody within a year, but for Switchback Trainees, this figure currently stands at an impressive 21 per cent.
Find out more about the growing team of Mentors and Trainees at Switchback by visiting their website: www.switchback.org.uk
I was a youth worker in a variety of settings for many years.
I was trained and experienced in developing clear and safe boundaries within which to do my intensive, one to one and group work. I had a great deal of opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t with different people in different situations; management and young people alike and I had some great exposure to the best and the worst of practice and policy.
I realise on reflection that despite the many organisational and safeguarding responsibilities I had for upholding a range of ‘rules’, I actually had two of my own. I used to tell young people there were only two things they were not allowed to say to me:
‘I don’t know’ and ‘I can’t be bothered’.
These rules emerged out of my experience of talking to young people about both simple (‘what do you think about that?’, ‘what did your social worker say?’, ‘why do you think you got sent out of your lesson today?’) and more complicated issues (‘what do you want to do about that?’, ‘can you imagine how your teacher might have felt?’, ‘do you think you did yourself justice with that reaction?’) and getting the standard response to each question: ‘I don’t know.’
‘I need you to think about it because I am asking you a question’. ‘When’, I would say, ‘you say "I don’t know", what I think you are really saying is, "I don’t want to think about it" and that shuts the conversation down. You don’t have to talk to me, but if you want to, it is going to be difficult unless you engage’. Often, I would ask the question again and get an entirely different response.
So, my first rule became ‘Please don’t tell me you don’t know the answer to a question there is no simple answer to.’ Of course, sometimes we don’t actually know ‘what time is it?’ or ‘what’s for dinner’; but most open questions require some thought before an answer and my rule was an expectation for young people to think with me.
The second rule emerged out of a similar dynamic. A young person would present a situation and we would begin a Socratic dialogue about it. At some point, I would ask something like ‘why don’t you do that then?’ (not very Socratic, I admit) to which, the stock response would be given: ‘I can’t be bothered.’
For some young people, the situations and levels of responsibility upon them meant that no amount of external support from Social Services, Housing, YOT workers, Leaving Care Teams, teachers, head teachers or family members was going to be effective without a great deal of effort on the part of the young person themselves. I was often aware of the injustice of the situations faced by many of the young people with whom I worked. My job was to support the young people I worked with to develop those skills, reflect and become aware of their own abilities, capacities and potential and find the motivation to, having identified it, plan and strive to achieve it.
‘I can’t be bothered’ was never going to get us anywhere. Although I usually completely understood the sentiment; too much to do, overwhelming pressure and demands, more responsibility than imagined and often enormous odds stacked against success - I insisted on my second rule: that young people did not tell me they ‘could not be bothered.’
I worked with young people to come up with alternative answers. Often that involved breaking down the tasks ahead and making manageable plans that were do-able. We would make sure there were some immediate results we could ensure quickly, so young people could be motivated by the fruits of their labour. Each small activity led to the next and the ticks on the to do list became an aspirational device. Young people would start to make their own, more complicated to do lists as they saw themselves getting stuff done and goals being acheived. And, magically, young people became more and more bothered. They started to do things without being asked, pre-empting the list making with me and getting straight to the reflection and next planning stage.
I stopped being directly involved in face to face youth work many years ago and now work in an organisation whose programme delivery focus has, for a long time, been adults.
Recently, I was lucky enough to work with a group of adult men in HMP Wandsworth on a trial of our new programme, Man Up. Man Up is a short, intensive group work programme dealing with the cultural and social norms that impact on masculine identity.
I was invited to co-facilitate the first and last sessions of the Wandsworth trial and was very happy to do so. I have a vested interest in the programme’s development, the quality assurance of our prison based delivery teams and the impact of the new material.
The Man Up trial was a really useful opportunity to validate a lot of the work we have done on the design, pace, content and methodology of the programme. We believe the performatory element of our work contributes to not only desistance for people in prison, but to a sense of achievement, an external expression of confidence, team work, completion of a process and of sharing with others, known and unknown. We include it in all our programmes because we believe it’s part of the challenge of personal development- pushing ourselves to do the things we find hardest and doing them well, being praised for them and wanting to do them again (or at least being less scared of them for having done them before).
So, on the day of the Wandsworth presentation, Sharon, the tutor at Wandsworth took me to the mobile in the education department where we had been working all week for us to set up and wait for the group to arrive.
I walked in and welled up. The classroom was organised, tables moved away for space to perform and for an audience; seats had been arranged and, and this is what made me cry; the floor had been swept and mopped.
In terms of ‘being bothered’ that, to me, was the epitome of an outcome.
I have never been imprisoned. I have never been found guilty of a crime, been before a jury, been held in custody or subject to the kinds of regime our Prison System involves. But, I have experienced moments of finding it hard to do things. Of not wanting to make the extra effort I know I should make. Of having to do things I don’t want to do.
For a group of men in prison to work together to sweep and mop the floor of a classroom to me, signified a level of ‘being bothered’ I would never have expected.
I am bothered because I care about what I do. Because I am clear about what I want to achieve, how prepared I am to put the work in and how important it is to me that I do what I believe to be right.
If any of the people I work with are bothered enough to do the things that no one notices; to sweep and mop the floor so that other people can come in to their performance space and feel welcome and comfortable; then I can only be more bothered to keep being bothered.
Reflex work in 12 prisons, across five regions, to empower children, young people and young adults to break the cycle of offending and reoffending. Through the delivery of Outreach, accredited Non-Formal Education and through-the-gate Resettlement Mentoring, Reflex are able to help young people who are serving a custodial sentence; they work with over 3,000 young people every year in Young Offenders Institutes across England and Wales, offering opportunities to build self-esteem, develop new skills and learn to express emotions positively. Using a tried and tested methodology: 'creative reflection - positive expression', Reflex are able to assist children and young people in reflecting creatively upon their lives and positively express their hopes for the future.
Reflex's dedicated team of Outreach workers create a safe environment for young people in which they can make their voices heard, and ensure that every young person is treated with respect. This enables young people to build the confidence and conviction to take control and make their own decisions in their transition to adulthood. Young people are offered help across the five key areas of support: social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical. The delivery of education and training also enable young people to redisover a love for learning and fulfill their potential. Reflex stress the importance of holistic support, and helping young people not only whilst in custody, but also in the community following their release.
Visit the Reflex website to find out more
With centres in Keighly and Bradford, Keyhouse works to address housing issues for the most socially excluded. They work with homeless families, young people and teenage parents.
It is not only advice on housing that is offered, Keyhouse was part of the setting up an allotment project. Working with service users, they provided plants for the silver medal winning homelessness garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, and they also work with a range of organisations to provide expertise on growing fruit and vegetables.
As well as a project for learning new skills, they are now planning to help service users apply their new found horticultural knowledge to produce cheap and healthy food for their own dinner tables.
Tender is a charity that works hard to promote healthy relationships based on respect and equality. It uses the world of theatre and the arts to engage young people and enable them to recognise and avoid abuse and violence. The charity, which was established in 2003, works within schools, youth centres, pupil referral units, offices, and healthcare settings, tailoring projects to meet specific needs in order to engage, challenge, entertain, and provoke a fundamental reassessment of our tolerance to abuse.
Tender has since worked with thousands of young people and professionals, educating them about abusive relationships in order to create supportive, abuse-free communities. Many exisiting attitudes within communities continue to condone violence within relationships, which is something Tender work hard to eradicate by implementing early interventions and education.
The Crib runs youth clubs in the Hackney area of London, and helps young people to get back into education and work with activities including study groups or one to one help for those who need assistance with their literacy skills. They run school holiday programmes by facilitatating workshops and accredited courses. The project works alongside the YOT and the police in ways to help those at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system.
Amber provides temporary homes at their centres for young people who may be unemployed, homeless, have a history of addiction, and may have also been involved in crime or served a prison sentence. They offer round the clock care, and work hard in encouraging and assisting individuals in overcoming obstacles or issues that have previously prevented them from living a normal, independent life. This includes offering counselling, literacy and numeracy courses, vocational training, work experience and confidence building to those in need.
Amber aims to assist vulnerable, disadvantaged young people in achieving a better future by providing a safe, supportive environment and placing significant emphasis upon the importance of enthusiasm, committment and determination.
Early Break offers a free, unique service to young people and their families who have issues with drugs and alcohol. The work they do initiates positive change and empowers individuals and their families to make significant alterations to their lives.They offer both group, and one-to-one help to families in which there are significant problems of substance misuse, and take the necessary steps to ensure that children’s voices are heard. A crucial aspect of Early Break is the focus on early intervention.
Early Break is the chosen Young Person's Drug and Alcohol Service for Bury, Rochdale and East Lancashire. It assists those aged up to 19 in Bury and Rochdale, whilst supporting young people aged up to 21 in East Lancashire.
Llamau is a homelessness charity aiming to support young people and vulnerable women in Wales. Primarily engaging with care leavers, young people who have been involved with the criminal justice system and those with disadvantaged lifestyles, Llamau recognises that they all need high levels of individual support to gain the necessary skills to live independently and be part of the community.
Many of the people they work with are homeless and face serious deficits in their education, affecting their employment prospects as a consequence.
Recognising that individuals have a range of needs - all of which need to be met - means working collaboratively with partners from all sectors - private, public and not-for-profit - in the interest of what works and what is best for the individual.
According to Home Office research published last week, ‘young people aged 10 to 17 were responsible for 23 per cent of police recorded crime in 2009/10, equivalent to just over a million police recorded crimes.’
What are we to make of these findings?
If we take the findings at face value, there is a strong gender bias towards young men. As the researchers point out, ‘Young men aged 10 to 17 were found to be responsible for 20 per cent of all police recorded crime in 2009/10 and young women responsible for only four per cent.’
The ongoing tendency to assume that the experience and behaviour of half the population (men and boys) is a short-hand for the experience and behaviour of the entire population (women and men, girls and boys) distorts understanding of what is really going on.
So what is really going on here? Should we take the findings at face value? Does this research prove that young people are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime? The short answer is no.
The research is based on the mashing together of two discrete but related datasets: police recorded crime statistics and data from the police national computer.
The first of these datasets – police recorded crime statistics – offers a detailed breakdown of incidents reported to or by the police that are also treated as a potential crime. The second of these datasets – the police national computer – gives detailed information on individuals who have accepted a police caution, received a fixed penalty notice or been convicted for a given offence.
Both datasets tell us many interesting things about the criminal justice process. Neither offers anything close to a comprehensive picture of the totality of crime and offending in England and Wales. This is because most crime and harmful incidents never comes to the attention of the police at all.
To assume that it does offer a comprehensive picture would be equivalent to visiting your local A and E ward and concluding that the miscellaneous collection of broken arms, bloody noses and kids with saucepans stuck on their heads offers a reliable picture of the health of the general population.
Given also that the criminal justice process is generally skewed towards dealing with the offences and infractions of young men, it should hardly surprise that they feature disproportionately in criminal justice datasets.
In short this is a sophisticated finger in the air punt. It will nourish prejudices about young people and crime. Those who want to believe that crime is a young person’s business will find comfort in this report.
It does little to advance knowledge and understanding about who is responsible for crime and social harm.