Monday, February 19, 2007

'If a Child' – Reflections for Society

Regrettably I do not know who wrote the following. Whoever it was has provided much for society to reflect upon in how it adddresses the challenges of reducing future re-offending, gang warfare and the wasting of many young people's lives!

'if a child lives with criticism
it learns to condemn'

'if a child lives with hostility
it learns to fight'

'if a child lives with ridicule
it learns to be shy'

'if a child lives with shame
it learns to be guilty'

'if a child lives with tolerance
it learns to be patient'

'if a child lives with encouragement
it learns confidence'

'if a child lives with praise
it learns to appreciate'

'if a child lives with fairness
it learns justice'

'if a child lives with security
it learns to have faith '

'if a child lives with approval
it learns to like itself'

'if a child lives with acceptance and friendship
it learns to find love in the world'

Thursday, February 15, 2007


UNICEF says ‘Britain’s children are the unhappiest in the West. What a shameful and sad indictment this is.

I’ve watched them fall asleep in classroom environments. I have seen them head in hand muttering under their breath. I have observed their yawning and sighs of frustration and I have listened to (and been part of) the discussions about their lack of motivation and respect. I have heard comments such as ‘It’s a waste of time trying to teach them anything’, or ‘I don’t know why I bother, they don’t listen. On occasions I too have joined the ranks of facilitators and teachers that have despaired of ever getting young people in my lessons / sessions to participate.

Yet so many of today’s young people are apprehensive and at times openly hostile about traditional classroom settings and learning. Their memories are often of personal failure and control by adults unwilling to listen, support or encourage them in their journey. Why is this? We all start life with a love to learn, a desire that overrides our inhibitions; we take risks and want to try everything. We have a natural curiosity to explore new things, we want to experience all; we are naturally motivated to learn.

Being told several times that ‘you are a failure and won’t amount to much’ and other such negative messages is a contributory factor, it creates the self fulfilling prophecy we hear so much about. Individuals rapidly develop low self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This does more harm to a developing young person than anything I know.

Lacking confidence and personal belief they are often struggling with issues surrounding family and identity. They worry about ‘fitting in’ and meeting the ‘acceptable’ criteria that will ensure they are one of the ‘in crowd’. Issues surrounding sexuality, relationships and money are high in the order of personal stress. When recognising what is going on for them socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually, it is not surprising that many do not view learning and conforming as pivotal to their existence.

Despite knowing that these problems exist, how easy it is for adults to blame and label them as difficult, unmotivated and lacking determination, commitment and respect. Yet, as we all too often see, poor and inappropriate role modelling by many adults in our society exacerbates the confusion.

One is left asking whether or not it is the young people who are unwilling to learn, or whether adults simply fail to understand. As teenagers, many adults were themselves given and have subsequently accepted the label of ‘failure’. They too struggle to cope and escape personnel feelings of inadequacy.

Young people are no different. They simply want to be treated like human beings, be respected and feel as if they matter; while they are happy to be challenged, they don’t want to be ridiculed or made to feel inferior or ashamed.

As Educators / Mentors / Teachers / Facilitators / Coaches / Parents we need to inflame their enthusiasm, find their passion and be interested in them as people. We need to listen to them, hear them, give them the opportunity to have their questions answered and talk with them, not at them. These are all important elements of developing reparative relationships that are built on trust, congruence, respect and empathy. This way we can nurture and maintain motivation, but there is one essential ingredient –

'To be motivated ourselves'

“Give a person an idea and you enrich their life. Teach a person how to learn and they can enrich their own lives" – Author Unknown

Theresa Owens
Director of Training
Life Change UK

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship - Reducing Youth Crime in Eastern Europe and Chile

Last Autumn I was fortunate to have undertaken a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship. I visited 6 countries (Estonia, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Chile). My aim was to briefly research issues surrounding the socio economic situation in each country, its impact upon youth crime and what each Government was attempting to do to reduce re-offending.

The full report can be seen on our Reports and Evaluations page on . It consists of an Executive summary and 6 seperate annexes, one for each country. I particularly draw your attention to some innovative work in Slovenia and the drive to promote Restorative Justice in Ukraine.

Do let me know if you have any questions.

Trevor Philpott

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reducing the Prison Population and Re-offending by Increasing Third Sector Capacity

Over the last weeks there has been increasing recognition by Ministers and professional commentators that only the most dangerous and persistent offenders should be sent to prison and that for the less dangerous, community sentences should be used. As part of that debate, it has been widely acknowledged that current overcrowding is severly inhibiting any potential to deliver meaningful rehabilitation and reduction in re-offending.

Clearly the ongoing prison crises will not be resolved quickly. The opening of old prison wings and the construction of new will take time and vast sums of money. Similarly, the Probation Service is already struggling to meet its existing workload, let alone take on more communuity offender programmes and additional levels of supervision and support. Even with more investment in the Probation Service, recruitment and training of staff will take time.

The challenge is - what else can be done?

Over the last two years the Government and opposition parties have increasingly recognised the excellent work undertaken with offenders by voluntary organisations. Equally all have promoted the need to engage the Third Sector to support the delivery of Public Sector services. Sadly, whilst some additional money has been made available, the majority of voluntary organisations struggle to raise sufficient revenue to survive and are still very much dependent upon the general public for charitable donations and grants from major Trusts.

Importantly, numerous voluntary sector organisations already exist throughout the country and are delivering what Ministers say is required. Most are champing at the bit to expand and do more; all they need is the encouragement and funding to do so. If the Government is serious about promoting partnership work and delivery with the Third Sector, here is a wonderful opportunity to prove it.

Rather than repeating past mistakes and relying on prison as the primary means of reducing re-offending, let us make a real 'step change' by significantly and rapidly increasing the capacity of the those Third Sector organisation already delivering excellent work with offenders? It would both enable a quick response to the requirement to reduce the prison population and re-offending as well as setting in motion the concept of change and the delivery of public services through meaningful partnership work.

Had such investment and support been forthcoming with our work at C-FAR (see our web site), we would still be operational with more than 100 young men undertaking a programme of rehabilitation in the one community centre each year. With further support that project could have been replicated elsewhere, delivering exactly what the Home Secretary is now suggesting is required. Many other voluntary organisations are delivering similar excellent work, all of which is greatly appreciated by both offenders and the public alike. Let us now take advantage of the current crises and instigate the change that is so desperately needed.

'If we keep doing the same things we must surely expect to see the same outcomes!'

Trevor Philpott