Fun that reforms young Havering offenders

Mike Lane and Jamie Skipper, managers of youth rehab centre with 18-year-old Harry who attended the

Mike Lane and Jamie Skipper, managers of youth rehab centre with 18-year-old Harry who attended the scheme - Credit: Archant

A Havering community youth project has taken the runner-up place in a prestigious national competition.

The organisation, called Is This Fun For Everyone?, was nominated in the children and young persons’ category for its project entitled I Am… Somebody, which offers services such as life coaching and mentoring to young people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system.

Set up in 2004 by mentor and project manager Mike Lane, the scheme was further enhanced in 2009 when mentor and life coach Jamie Skipper stepped on board.

The chemistry between them clearly works, with Jamie forthright and assertive and Mike the eternal optimist. “It’s like good cop, bad cop,” Mike chuckles.

Jamie, 37, told the Recorder: “It’s about building self-confidence and belief. I suffered from addiction in my youth and turned my life around. It means I can empathise with the people I mentor.”

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Nobody is more aware of this than 18-year-old Harry who was referred to the scheme 15 months ago. He said: “I needed someone to point me in the right direction. Jamie got to know where I was coming from and understand me, and then I felt he could help me.

“It really built my confidence and I got to try out new things. I loved cooking. I had never done it before but I really enjoyed it and looked forward to it.”

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Laughing and joking with Jamie, Harry, of Harold Hill, exudes confidence. He has been employed for the past year as a landscape gardener and is an exemplar of the scheme’s effectiveness.

The competition’s organisers, the Howard League for Penal Reform, revealed that 72.3 per cent of children freed from custody reoffend within a year. In contrast, 65.6 per cent of children made the subject of a youth rehabilitation order go on to reoffend within a year of completing the order.

While there is no huge difference between the two figures, there is wide disparity in the quality and success rates of youth schemes nationwide.

Mike said: “We do our best to support young people and children. As a result, 25 per cent of our referrals do not go on to re-offend. This is one of the reasons we were nominated for the award.”

Catryn Yousefi, programme manager at the Howard League, agreed, saying: “Thirteen schemes across England and Wales have been honoured in the Community Programmes Awards 2013 and I am delighted the I Am… Somebody project is one of them.”

Realising that every young person is different is key to its success. Thus a plethora of vocational pursuits are offered, including non-contact boxing, cookery, climbing and horse riding.

The project works on the basis of catering for individual needs.

Jamie said: “It would not work otherwise.” Harry added: “I would never have agreed to come here if it meant being involved with a group.”

Harry’s mother Joanna, 45, said: “Mike and Jamie really did help him. From what we went through with Harry to where he is now, it’s such a difference.

“The scheme gave him confidence and really improved his social skills. Work has given him money in his pocket and confidence. He is a different person now. They are still in contact with him to offer continued support.”

Harry says thoughtfully: “I really don’t know what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t decided to give this a go.”

Now, with the hard work and people skills gained on the scheme, Harry can look forward to a bright future.

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