Beyond Youth Custody


James was sentenced to 12 months in custody for theft while on license. His YOT worker referred him to [the project] who assigned him a Project Worker, Chris. James was very isolated in prison as he had no family or friends who were able to visit him. Chris made sure his visits with James were regular and relaxed – they often laughed and joked about things. James engaged well with Chris, who helped to coordinate James’ resettlement plans.

While James was in custody, Chris worked closely with his social worker and accommodation providers to ensure that plans were in place to meet James’s accommodation needs on release. James wanted to return to his previous foster parents; they had previously housed his brother, too, and would provide critical stability. Chris supported and advocated for James, and it was agreed that this was the best possible option if there was any way it could be achieved. This was a challenge, and took time and commitment.

Chris picked James up on the day of his release, as James was anxious about being in unfamiliar places, using public transport, and had no family support. This set a precedent for their relationship, as James felt Chris cared about him and could be relied upon. With James it was paramount that the right person was there to help him with his transition from custody to community and help on the day of his release.

After release, Chris gave James emotional support and helped him to cope with his anxiety. Chris became a vital link between James and other services, he ‘walked alongside him’ and enabled him to access and accept support. Various agencies were involved in James’ resettlement, including the YOT, social services, police, a local drug and alcohol project, the local college where James had previously studied, and a local sports club.

James had to wait for his foster family to have a space in their home. Chris facilitated access to temporary supported accommodation in the interim, and supported James to sustain it until the foster placement became available. This was critical during the initial period during which James was at high risk of reoffending and experiencing high levels of anxiety.

James felt that Chris cared about him and helped him when he needed it. At times James struggled to get involved in purposeful activities; he had the desire to get involved but lacked motivation. James also had high expectations of how quickly he could live independently, and could get frustrated if things moved slowly. Chris helped overcome these difficulties by working in close liaison with other agencies and focusing on James’ strengths.

James had a dislike for social services, and would on occasions be negative and abusive towards his social worker. On a number of occasions, Chris helped facilitate better communication and a better relationship between them. Chris helped James to understand that his anger towards his social worker was linked to anger about family and past events.

James found that the project provided the consistency of one worker who continued to support him through major transitions in his life. Chris was able to advocate for James when he became overwhelmed by the challenges he faced, helped him learn from his experiences and to not ‘give up’ when things became difficult. Although James moved on from one-to-one support with the project, he is now close to leaving his foster placement with a view to living independently, and so James has asked Chris to work with him again on a short-term basis at the point of him moving into his own place. Chris will provide an intensive short period of additional support that no other agency would. Throughout James’ journey, the project has been able to work as intensively and flexibly as required. This flexibility has been crucial.

James is currently paying back the debts he incurred before his time in custody, has reduced his drug use, and is continuing to engage in the local sports project. He was successful in securing paid employment and is currently volunteering. He is a lot happier than he was before, and has not reoffended.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes