WE HAVE PROVIDED CASE STUDIES BELOW TO SHOW THE SHEER IMPORTANCE OF CELLS AND HOW OUR MANY VOLUNTEERS AND WORKERS CONTRIBUTE TO MAKE IT THE STRONG PROJECT THAT IT IS TODAY.
- Case study B 23/3/20
INTRODUCTION & REFERRAL
B was referred to us by Youth Justice Services, being described as one of their highest risk young people and someone who was not engaging with any services. It was markedly clear from reading the referral that B, at the age of 16, was already heavily involved in criminality and was in an extremely dangerous and vulnerable position. B was at risk of custody if he continued to offend and not comply with the community orders he was placed on.
B was living in a care home out of his local area and was very well known by the police and many other services. He had been under YJS since early teens, displaying offending behaviours such as burglary, car crime, criminal damage, possession of offensive weapons and bladed articles etc. B had been arrested carrying weapons (hammers, knives, hatchets) on several occasions – B had also made disclosures to care staff regarding carrying and using weapons as everyday life. B also disclosed that he smoked cannabis daily (up to £60 per day), but there was concern that he was potentially taking other substances also. There were significant concerns regarding B drug dealing, not only in the local community but also involvement in county lines gangs. At the beginning of 2019, B had handed himself into a police station, over 200 miles away from where he lived and said that he had been kidnapped and had been held against his will. The Police already had intelligence at that time, linking B to county lines in other areas such as Wales selling drugs.
An initial meeting took place at B’s care home placement. On arrival, staff at the residence said that we would be lucky to get him to come down from his room and they would be very surprised if he was to speak to us and engage with the service as he didn’t engage with any other services. To everyone’s surprise however B came down to talk to us. B seemed very sceptical about our service and sat with his hood up, little to no eye contact and did not talk with any confidence and appeared tired, withdrawn and had dirty ripped clothing on. I began by explaining the service to him and my personal background that led me to be a Mentor with CELLS. This initial meeting lasted around an hour and when I asked if he would be interested in engaging with me and the service he said yes. The care staff in the house commented as I was leaving that they were all shocked that he engaged with us for that length of time and that he had agreed to meet again.
Over the first few meetings I slowly built up a trusting relationship with B and we talked more and more about situations that B had experienced and discussed how he really felt about them. He began to speak more openly and honestly during each session, giving B a safe space to talk about anything that he wanted.
B was then presented with an opportunity to start an apprenticeship with the National Rail, but he would have to supply a clean drug test. This was a barrier to B’s progression as even though he had now stopped supplying drugs and had removed himself from that world, he still smoked a significant amount of cannabis. We discussed why he smoked cannabis and what he got out of it. We talked about the positive and negative aspects of cannabis and through our conversations, B himself said that he felt it did not serve him anymore to smoke it and he wanted to stop. Again, within a short period of time, B applied these changes to his life and has now tested clear for all illegal substances. This has meant that he was able to start his apprenticeship. He is currently too young to start the railway course, so is on a building placement until his 18th birthday.
I feel that this is a pivotal time for B. He is at a point where support to keep him on track needs to be given. Despite the unbelievable transformation that B has accomplished. There is still a big level of uncertainty looming over him regarding an old charge. So, I believe that moving forward we will begin to continue to offer B support but with increasingly bigger gaps between meetings.
- Case study N
N’s parents explained that their son didn’t want for anything. Still, he went missing for extended periods, with no contact and then showing up with unaccounted money, clothes, and items with no explanation. I met their son, who was very tall and looked much older than he was. I explained who I was and what the service did and what support we could offer. I then explained my experience and background, which he seemed very interested in, and he seemed to relate to aspects of my experience. He began to talk about criminal knowledge that he had and seemed to glorify the idea of being involved in criminal activity. He seemed very clued up about certain aspects of a criminal enterprise’s inner working and criminal life. Still, He was very naïve when it came to the actual reality of the impact of those consequences of this life. He also was very naïve to his “friends’/associates’” loyalties and potential motivations. It was clear that he had a street ego (mask) that he felt was very important to keep up as protection.
Over the first few meetings, I slowly built up a trusting relationship with the mentee, and we talked more and more about situations that he had experienced and discussed how he felt about them. He expressed that he takes several different drugs and continuously attempted to glamorize the criminal activity he was involved in and expressed that he saw a life career in it. He seemed in denial of actually how he felt about the potentially dangerous situations he had found himself wrapped up in, choosing to brush off the experiences and talk from a macho front to show how unaffected he was and to convince himself that he was in control and how he found the experiences funny. It was vital for me to get him to drop this mask; otherwise, I believed that no real progression could be made.
After several weeks, I felt that I had built up enough of a trusting relationship to challenge his mentality seriously and ego effectively and take it on board and not get defensive. The mentee reacted very well to this, and he began to speak more openly and honestly each session, feeling that it was a safe place to drop his mask.
We talked about aspirations and what type of future he would like to have. We talked about relationships and what he viewed as healthy and unhealthy ones. While discussing all of these subjects, we applied them to his current and past situations and how he would like future ones to be different and what control he had over these outcomes. The process was to get him to understand the impact of his past choices and actions, and that he had the power to make different choices and walk a different path.
Through our discussion, he realized that the criminal life that he had been living and aspiring to have, was not all that he thought it was. He talked about the positives that he perceived not being all they seemed. The money that he aspired to have was not there, and he said that people he knew that had been in the game for a long time were not wealthy and able to spend it without raising suspicion from the police and going to prison. His so-called friends had shown times of no loyalty and had even betrayed him to protect themselves. He was able to see that he had been getting used by others and put into vulnerable situations that impacted him and his family life. He even explored how friends that he knew from school, who chose not to get involved in crime and instead got educated and employment, were earning more than him, driving their cars, going on holidays, and were living better than he was. The penny felt like it was beginning to drop.
In-between our sessions, I received a phone call from his mum to inform me that her son had been arrested and interviewed on suspicion of attempted murder and conspiracy to supply class A drugs. This was from an investigation in North Wales where a male was stabbed in a flat that connected with a county lines drug gang. The incident had occurred months before we had begun our mentoring relationship.
This was a severe allegation brought against the mentee with the potential consequences of a prison life sentence.
He said that he didn’t want to be involved with crime whatsoever and wanted to live everyday life. Within a couple of weeks, he had successfully gained employment in a distribution warehouse on minimum wage and was very pleased with himself. He said that he had stopped going out at night with his “associates” and started to stay in to get a good night’s sleep for work the next day. He said that he was feeling much better than he had for years but still felt like he was in limbo, waiting for the investigation results. Finally, after months of waiting, he was informed that he was cleared of all charges, and there would be no further action taken against him.
The mentee is no longer involved in criminal activity.
I feel that N is a mentee who has displayed a significant positive shift in his attitude and now understands the gravity of the repercussions of his choices and actions. We will leave the door open for him if he feels that he would benefit from our support in the future, but for now, we think this mentee is on the right track and has come such a long way from where he was at the beginning of our work with him.
— Sam, Volunteer, presenter and motivation for others
Sam was introduced to CELLS in October 2013 by Mel of the Salford Foundation. This in turn was through our work with Achieve/Connexions. He appeared to be a bright young lad who genuinely regretted his mistake of getting in trouble, this was whilst working as a doorman, a life that he had now shunned and was now looking to get involved in youth work. It was encouraging to see Sam had enrolled on a youth work course at St Helens College as part of this objective and was seeking part time work in order to support this learning. He agreed that he could come in every Friday to volunteer for CELLS and has never let us down with this commitment yet, although he had restrictions because of all this activity he tried to get involved in as many courses as possible. Initially, he worked with Julie on his Personal Development Plan from which we understood the need to update his CV, whilst doing this we registered Sam for some online courses including common core skills & knowledge and personal safety for lone workers. These courses were relevant to his career objectives in youth work and also flexible with his heavy time schedule. We firstly invited Sam to observe our presentations which gave him an insight into our work and approach. On his volunteering days he was given tasks such as office and admin duties to get him involved in a working environment. He then constructed his own workshop on his individual story and delivered it at Byrchall High. It was from this event that Sam showed his power of engagement with youngsters. He has delivered many more group sessions and one to one sessions since.
Sam continued to work on a Friday and developed sessions with youngsters from Centre 63 groups that were NEET (not in education, employment or training). This work over spilled into a group that Centre 63 (where CELLS is based) are working with and the centre asked Sam to work with them every Friday. This arrangement was conducted in the correct manner and CELLS approved this to further develop Sam’s PDP objectives. He recruited the group to attend a CELLS First Aid course and mentored them through this course. It was from this arrangement that Sam was alerted to a position becoming available at the centre for a youth worker. We helped him with this application and interview technique and approach. Sam was successful in securing the post and it was great testimony to him that he did. Sam has recently taken on and developed other workshops including joint enterprise and always helps others with their work and workshops. He has just facilitated a whole event at a local primary school which was a major success mostly due to Sam’s professionalism and that of his colleagues. Sam has just been awarded a national award for Young Person of the Year which is testament to his hard work and character.
— Ray's story
Ray is currently servicing a sentence for firearms.
My name is Ray and I am a prisoner from HMP Kennet. I approached the outreach team in prison stating my desire to do some form of youth work training/volunteering as part of my stage one voluntary work. As a result of this I was placed with CELLS who I now work with. In the beginning I felt very awkward as I have never worked in this kind of setting and felt very nervous and out of place. I thought people would judge me on my criminal past and for being a prisoner. I was under the impression I wouldn’t fit in and would constantly be judged.
It is now May 2014 and I have been working with CELLS for almost 5 months and all my initial fears and bad feelings towards how I would be accepted and fit in have gone. My confidence has grown a lot due to the help and support I have received from the staff at CELLS. I have completed many online courses and have also completed an Asdan course on peer mentoring and helped develop lots of other aspects within the office environment such as evaluations and workshops. I have worked in teams as well as on my own and now feel comfortable in both roles. Since working with CELLS I have gained several contacts with local schools and have also attended several meetings with the CELLS staff regarding presentations in the local schools. This has enabled me to give valued input as the business I am working for need these contacts to organise presentation days to deliver our many workshops. We have created and made a static prison cell within our office so we can do presentation and educational days from our office which has had enormous amounts of positive feedback and is a vital tool to our team. The role I have taken within CELLS can mean a lot of office based work which has helped educate me with IT and office skills such as sending e-mails and completing evaluations on our work as well as reports. I also help with the day to day paperwork such as the volunteers’ activity sheets and PDPs. I have worked on and helped develop a PowerPoint presentation as well as a prison experience workshop that I deliver with the youths at the centre as well as on presentation days at various destinations such as schools and colleges.
Shaun's comment (Developer Manager and Founder of CELLS)
Ray is testimony to the CELLS ethos that negative pasts can inspire positive futures, his hard work and endeavour is starting to show him that he is now taking steps towards his ultimate aim of working in the youth sector. He has completed a lot of fundamental training and qualifications in order to continue his development and we hope to aid him and continue this. We eventually hope that he will gain employment in doing what he seems to be good at, which is not just educating youngsters about the consequences of crime but also working with youths as a mentor and an inspirational role model.