Memorandum submitted by Rosemary Smith

 

I attended your Select Committee meeting on Monday as a member of the public (I was the lady in the pink suite).

 

During the voting break I had an opportunity to talk to Ms. Helen Southworth MP.  I explained that I work with a cutting edge organisation that have excellent results with NEETS, have taken the re-offending rates of our young people from 84% to 0.5% (external evaluations undertaken) and have turned around the lives of many young people in a very sustainable way.  Ms. Southworth asked me to write to you with my comments on some of your questions and an overview of the work I have seen Leaps and Bounds achieve, so that if you felt it appropriate you could circulate it to the rest of the group.

 

I am delighted with this request and enclose (from memory) the questions you skilfully asked, but at times were perhaps not answered as fully as you would have liked from the expert witnesses.  Our organisation would relish the opportunity to answer any questions you would like to send us either by e-mail or at one of your meetings.  The young people we have turned round are our best advocates and will articulately tell you about their old lives and the bright future of contribution they see ahead.

 

I hope you will receive this as a constructive correspondence, that will inform the excellent work you are doing and hopefully bring desperately needed changes to young lives.

 

Rosemary Smith

 

Rosemary Smith's responses to your questions:

Select Committee Meeting, Portcullis House - Monday 8 February 2010.

 

Q.The government has put a lot of money into NEETS and we have made little progress. Why has the situation not changed?

 

We feel the situation has changed; there are more NEETS in our areas of work in Liverpool, South London and Shropshire. The causes we feel are:

1. The demise of the manufacturing industry

2. The economic down turn.

3. Educational places have reduced and in some cases "held" young people from being NEET without offering a long term solution.

4. To make sustainable change (a paradigm shift) in these dis-functional and chaotic lives needs longer term programmes and pastoral support. Not a "soft touch", but consistent work to enable change.

 

Q. There are jobs for tube drivers for 40,000 a year. Would you encourage your young people towards this sort of job?

 

We would jump at an opportunity like this, encouraging our young people to take such a job, firstly it gets them into the work "mode", they make contacts, get a reference and can hold their head up high as someone who has a job.

It is never demeaning to do a job well, then you can move up.

 

Q. Why not adopt the strategy taken by Holland to take a tough line?

 

Many of the young people we deal with "can't" respond to that sort of demand and will again feel a failure and fall into deeper poverty. Peter Lister from the Prince's Trust touched on this answer. The young people we are dealing with have slipped so far down the slippery slide with no one to interrupt their fall; a qualification is beyond their reach. The help they need is expensive, but compared with the cost of not doing anything... it is cheap.

 

The position they are in so often means they have slipped below the radar, do not really know what is out there, don't know where to turn (even if they can summon up the determination to so do), lack the language to articulate that frustration and also do not have the contacts to crawl back up 'slippery slide'

 

We feel they need to be engagement through a long term programme with individual support through a combination of professional & volunteer support .During this time you offer supported work, with pastoral care and confidence building. The actual programme can be a number of offers, from our perspective and experience using a cultural or sporting vehicle offers a focussed activity which, in turn, they can apply the lessons learned to real life.

 

Short term programs produce quick fixes, but for sustainable change, it takes time. However if they return to their old friends and old ways, particularly if this is crime, the cost to the public purse is 1M each person, every eight years. This is also a multi-generational problem.

 

 

Q. You asked the panel if they could bring young people to meet you.

 

Our programme, which is very cutting edge, has been externally evaluated. The re-offending rate in the Midlands is 74%. The young people who have done our programme have a re-offending rate of 0.5%. Many are in university, all have moved onto positive things. We could bring to you a young mixed race man, who had been in trouble and now is an articulate 20 years old with a full scholarship for drama school after taking a leading role in our project Ballet Hoo! (4.8 million viewers on Channel 4). Or a young man who was aggressive and had been in 27 children's home, he is now stable and a changed man. Or a young man who was going nowhere fast, lazy, unemployed etc. He is now the assistant in a shoe shop and contributes hugely to his community, having trained as a volunteer youth worker. We have girls who were doing nothing who are now at university, a traveller girl who had not been in school since the age of 12 is now a trainee officer in the Royal Navy etc. etc. All of these can articulate their own journey and are very clear as to what wasn't working for them and now does!

 

Q. About how funding is given?

 

The whole emphasis is sometimes not helpful to the young person (Fairbridge talked about 20 for support to get them out of their tangled, chaotic lives, but 1,500 if they are capable of a qualification course). We agree that this emphasis is difficult, particularly for small charities, who are unable to spend hours working through difficulties for 20, while saving the government huge amounts of police time, court time, probation service time, stolen goods etc.

 

Q. Connexions work is being put back into the Local Authority. Do you think that is a good thing?

 

In our experience of Black Country Connexions has been very positive although we do gather that this has not necessarily been the case in other parts of the country.

 

My personal opinion is that where Connexions worked well, as in our area, it provided an alternative 'route' to young people that is not covered by many youth services and as such, though its internal systems, can identify more efficiently young people in need of help. The danger is that, as it becomes more assimilated within local authorities, then this route will be closed. As such it is likely that the individual targeted aspect of Every Child Matters will be less effective.

 

Q. Are we being seen as a soft touch?

 

We feel that long term pastoral support and very structured programmes like Leaps and Bounds are the only solution to long term change. We expect our young people to keep their word, to show up and to take responsibility. This is a big ask at the beginning, but slowly the group all move forward and start to nurture each other and inspire each other...that is the point at which you can talk about a plan, a goal, a life....which can then lead to possibilities that they could not have known about before.

 

Our results speak for themselves and we hope to get funding to move forward to doing our forth large programme based on the founding father's of the Modern Olympic Movement. Their objective of founding the movement was to allow working class young people to take part in competitive sport and to expand their horizons to become valuable people in their towns and communities. Their aspirations to curb binge drinking, to get young people to gain pride from sporting endeavours and to expand their horizons is as pertinent today as it was almost 200 years ago. This is a British heritage of which we should be very proud and for young people to turn their lives around using "2012 Gold Dust" is perfect.

 

March 2010