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This is YOT.

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TRIGGER WARNING…kind of. Don’t read this unless you want the truth about Youth offending teams…or YOTS as they are called.

Today’s guest blog will get people talking and thinking that’s for sure. My relationship with Kate, who is todays guest blogger, has been intense from the start. Kate is part of the Birds team (If you have not heard their podcasts…do so right now!) who recorded and aired the first ever podcast I took part in which  investigated the inextricable links between UK street gangs, offending and prison as they chat with two former gang members and a prison gang worker to find out what it really means to do time.. You can listen to it HERE. I asked Kate to write me blog and she said she would get back to me….and boy was it worth the wait.

Sometimes you read or hear something and you think….yep….this person has the same heart beat as me. Its not often I read something, and it makes me just sit there and nod. The part where Kate talks about the boy in the dog cage…that hot a nerve with me. But I will tell that story another time.

I don’t think people realise what front line workers go through. We are not robots. It hurts to see what our young children go through.

So…I give you my friend Kate. Someone who may have been able to reach me as a young person….maybe

A snapshot into the ups and downs of a London Youth Offending Team.

This is YOT.

You get a phone call to say a boy who you supervise is in police custody for Attempted Murder. You see the charge plea bargained down to a section 18 and watch him get remanded at court. You write his PSR and see the CCTV showing him stabbing someone in a fight. You advocate for him in the report, talk of his own stabbing months earlier, his own unresolved trauma and the footage showing him not being the instigator of the attack. You talk about his strengths, his love of music and his songs which have been viewed on YouTube over 3 million times. You talk about his protective mother and their close relationship. You hear the Judge sentence him to 7 years and lift the reporting restrictions to the press watching to ‘teach other young people a lesson‘. You comfort his parents as they cry outside the court and see him in the cells shell shocked and try and offer him some comfort too.

This is YOT.

You write a PSR for a boy with numerous charges who is currently on remand. He has a chaotic history and been through horrific experiences. The social worker thinks they are a risk to the public and is annoyed at your proposal of a community order, despite these being his first offences. The Judge decides to take a chance and give him a community sentence and tells the court that your report persuaded him to give the young person a chance. Social care tell your Head of Service that he will be back in custody within a week. He has not been back in custody since… 2 years on.

This is YOT.

A boy is recalled to custody for breach of his license for one day as social care cannot find a placement for him. He answers his phone in the dock and tells his friend that the magistrates are pussy holes, loud enough for the whole court room to hear.

This is YOT.

You work with a girl who’s going through care proceedings. She feels repeatedly let down by everyone around her and uses your sessions as a space to talk and express her emotions. You get her involved in a painting project and she helps decorate the new YOT room. She is placed in a residential unit and her room is plain. You help her design a tribute picture for her dad who was murdered 4 years ago to hang on her wall. She doesn’t reoffend. She engages with therapeutic work and sits her GCSEs. She gets into college and finishes her order. She texts you months later saying you helped her more than anyone ever did, and she wants to say thank you. You screenshot the message to keep it.

This is YOT.

You are on the phone to a young person encouraging them to come in for their appointment. Negotiation doesn’t work and he tells you to suck your mum and that you’re a fat bitch and hangs up the phone. Next time you see him, the air is thick, but he offers you an apology as he leaves.

This is YOT.

You work with a girl who has a knife conviction. She was working with children part time and she is doing a social care course at college. She is very worried about telling them. We devise a letter together and she sends it off. We meet with the college; we meet with the nursery.  They decide to keep her on.

This is YOT.

A boy you supervise is missing. Weeks go by and he has not been in touch with anyone. One morning he climbs through his mum’s window and gets in bed. The police arrest him as he is wanted for breaching his order. You see him in the cells, and he has lost a significant amount of weight, he has injuries to his body and he is very, very scared. He speaks about being kept in a dog cage whilst being forced to go and sell drugs in a different area. He said he escaped in the night and is worried that his mum is going to get hurt as the dealers threatened to kill her if he got away. He agrees to engage with a National Referral Mechanism and talks to police. He is placed out of the area and does well, sticking to his conditions and engaging with his order. You text his social worker to ask how he is doing a few months after you leave, and she replies saying he is missing again.

This is YOT.

You work with a boy in custody on a life sentence for a joint enterprise murder. He was sentenced aged 14 and he was not at the scene of the murder. He is struggling in custody; he can not accept his sentence and refuses to do any behaviour change interventions. He is appealing his conviction, but it isn’t going well. You write him letters, but he doesn’t reply. He is disengaged from review meetings and looks at the table. You book a visit to him and you break down some barriers. You send him books and see him regularly. He talks about the law of attraction and him speaking his appeal into existence. When you tell him, you are leaving the service and going to a different service, his eyes shine and he tells you he will see you soon, on the outside.

This is YOT.

You can follow Bird podcast on Twitter HERE

Listen to the podcast HERE

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