#YouthWorkMatters: How a listening ear helped me turn my life away from crime

#YouthWorkMatters: How a listening ear helped me turn my life away from crime

Tash Bright No Comment

‘It just didn’t register with me that shoplifting might have a negative impact on anyone else. I didn’t feel bad, I didn’t have a conscience.’

*Names have been changed

Jemma, 19, had just received a caution from the Police for shoplifting when she was introduced to Sheffield Futures and became a Young Advisor, giving young people a voice, which ultimately helped her turn away from a life of crime.

‘I first got involved with Sheffield Futures when I was 16.  At the time I had just received a caution from the Police for shoplifting and whilst I was in custody the Police asked me if I’d like to do a six week course to work out what might be making me shoplift and turn to a life of crime.’ Says Jemma.

Ironically, this was a real turning point for Jemma, just when she thought she had hit rock bottom there seemed to be hope. ‘They said that if we could get to the bottom of why I was making the wrong choices we might be able to change my behaviour. I had a one to one meeting with a support worker from MAST. We met every week for 6 weeks and talked about the negatives of shoplifting and consequences.’

‘It was then I realised that I didn’t think stealing would impact anyone else. The course helped me to develop a conscience and re train my brain to think about the consequences of my actions, not just for me but for everyone involved. I didn’t feel bad and didn’t have a conscience. It was basically 6 weeks of retraining my brain. We realised that I was bored and that’s why I was stealing.’

Jemma’s MAST worker also introduced her to programmes in Sheffield that she may be interested in. ‘That’s when I got involved with the Young Advisors – giving young people a voice – at Sheffield Futures. I didn’t think I’d ever be accepted into something like this again as I had a caution that would last 5 years.’ Says Jemma.

As part of her role with the Young Advisors at Sheffield Futures Jemma has spent time working on the children and young people’s safeguarding board, acting as a youth consultant, looking at how to best communicate with young people that have been identified as at risk.

Talking about her experience Jemma says, ‘I felt so safe speaking to my manager about my background and felt that I wasn’t judged but was just being given an opportunity to progress and gain experience.’

‘From my experience with the Young Advisors at Sheffield Futures I now know I want to work with children and young people as part of my future career. It’s given me so much experience and so many skills as well as crucial self-awareness. I’m now confident with public speaking and have made a difference in the community and feel tuned into the city’s issues. I’m a real people person and I love talking!’

Jemma is now studying at University and is on a positive path forward. ‘It was brilliant to be able to tick no convictions on my application form!’ Jemma says. ‘Thanks to the young advisors and Sheffield Futures taking a chance on me I’ve got the self-confidence, self-awareness and experience to achieve the things I never thought I would do in my life.’ 

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