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'It is down to the parents' Hornchurch charity given £116,000 by The Mayor of London to educate young people about knife crime

PUBLISHED: 07:17 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 07:23 14 December 2018

Bolaji Olagunju of You and Me Counselling.

Bolaji Olagunju of You and Me Counselling.

Archant

A Hornchurch counselling charity has been awarded more than £100,000 from the Mayor of London to talk to every school in Havering about knife crime, and is hoping to intervene with youngsters before they take the wrong path that leads to a life of crime.

Staff at You and Me Counselling in Hornchurch. Bolaji Olagunju, Paula Sewell and Jenna Altringham.Staff at You and Me Counselling in Hornchurch. Bolaji Olagunju, Paula Sewell and Jenna Altringham.

You and Me Counselling was set up in 2011 by Bolaji Olagunju and the charity is a counselling and psychotherapy service that works with children, young people, adults and their families in Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

Counsellors and therapists work both within schools and from their offices in North Street

Bolaji started the counselling service after a number of her own personal experiences, where she didn’t know what to do and who to speak to or turn to.

When her son was 14 he was kicked out of school for shoplifting, and was starting to spend time with boys that were a bad influence on him.

Bolaji Olagunju of You and Me Counselling.Bolaji Olagunju of You and Me Counselling.

She struggled to work out why he was acting out of character and when she asked the school he was kicked out of for help, they said there was nothing they could do.

This was when it clicked for her - “If you can’t do something, then I am going to do something,” she told the school.

Bolaji then began studying to be a counsellor, and while she was doing this she told her tutor about her problems at home.

Her tutor told her to write down when her son was misbehaving at home, and Bolaji said she realised she was “too authoritive and overpowering” and said “he wasn’t able to express himself at home and he did that at school.

Staff at You and Me Counselling in Hornchurch. Jenna Altringham, Bolaji Olagunju and Paula Sewell.Staff at You and Me Counselling in Hornchurch. Jenna Altringham, Bolaji Olagunju and Paula Sewell.

“I was being a bad mum, and was to blame for what he was doing.”

She decided after her counsellor helped her, that was what she wanted to do, and wanted to help other young people express themselves in the right way.

While she was studying, Bolaji spent hours on the streets in Romford and Harold Hill speaking to young people and trying to help them and find out what was leading to more and more young people committing crimes.

“Alot of the time it is down to the parents, and is down to their family life why young people end up as criminals.

“They might think it is big and clever but it isn’t.”

The mum-of-four funded the Hornchurch charity through her own savings for the first few years, but it recently gained support from Children in Need, the People’s Health Trust and the Mayor of London among others.

As part of his Young Londoners fund Sadiq Khan awarded Y&M £116,000 to educate thousands of children across Havering about knife crime, and the consequences of committing a crime.

David Smith, is a counsellor at Y&M and said each class is tailored to the different age groups and it is about “making it real for them”

“With younger children we tell them if they commit a crime we talk about punishments - they won’t be able to go to Disneyland, or we tell them if they get in trouble Santa won’t come to visit.”

David is also a probation officer and sees lots of young people involved in crime, and he is drawing on these experiences when he talks to schools and wants to educate and intervene with young people before it ever gets so bad they appear in court.

With Christmas just around the corner, the charity has been working with Rev Barry Hobbs and his team at St. Andrew’s Church in Hornchurch, and they have raised enough money for presents for 123 children across Havering, that will be given to vulnerable students at 25 different schools.

Bolaji said: “This is the first time we have done this and we now aim to help 500 children next year - who otherwise would not have had any presents at Christmas and whose families are facing increasingly difficult times.”

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