Thursday, 24 March 2011

Working with young offenders

It was fascinating to give a course on working with young offenders with John Vincent of The Network the other day. We explored the background to offending, the experiences that young offenders and their families may have had and the criminal justice system as it affects young people, before moving on to identifying the role that cultural heritage organisations can play and ways to break down barriers. It was only when I started to research the subject for the course that I realised just how much good practice in this field there is in museums, libraries and archives. Lots of great projects have totally changed young people’s attitudes to learning and to cultural organisations. Young offender institution staff and young offenders themselves talk of profound effects on confidence, self-esteem and behaviour – effects with the potential to radically improve life chances.

We were lucky enough to have a great group of delegates on the course, including two from YOIs, who all added a huge amount of valuable experience of working with hard-to-reach groups to the case studies we brought.

I was delighted to have been given permission to show an amazing animation created by a group of four young offenders over a 10 week course at Norwich Castle Museum. They chose to work on a group project re-interpreting the Castle Keep. The film is on YouTube, and well worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SNxvNcyCSo. Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service have been running projects with Norfolk Youth Offending Team for several years. You can see some more films made by young offenders involved here: http://lcjb.cjsonline.gov.uk/Norfolk/2803.html.

There are still a few weeks left to see some quite different artwork produced by young offenders, this time the product of partnership working between the National Gallery and Feltham YOI. Inside Art is at the Gallery until 1 May 2011: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/inside-art-2011. I found it very interesting not only to see the young people’s paintings and sculpture, lots of it extremely impressive, but also to find out about the items from the Gallery’s collection that artists and Gallery staff used as a starting point.

The Six Book Challenge has been exploited to fabulous effect with young offenders, so it’s really good to hear that the reach and impact of Challenge activity in YOIs is to be extended: http://www.sixbookchallenge.org.uk/news/boost-for-challenge-for-young.

For anyone interested in the background to youth offending, Libby Brooks wrote a thought provoking article in the Guardian last week about the impact of England’s worryingly low age of criminal responsibility. You can find it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/18/justice-10-age-criminal-responsibility.

One thought on “Working with young offenders

  1. Katrina Siliprandi

    I was so pleased to read that participants on Anne’s course enjoyed the latest animation created by a small group of young offender, inspired by Norwich Castle keep. We were really proud of their achievement and it is great to be able to share it.

    Working in partnership, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Norfolk Youth Offending Team (NYOT) have tried and tested arts interventions with young offenders over recent years. We are now running two 12-week (minimum) courses each year, meeting weekly at the Castle to create animations that are inspired by the building or collections. Each group of young people has followed their own interests; some groups have worked together, others have worked on individual films. Many of the young people involved have used a wide range of animation techniques and developed their knowledge and skills of film making, along with making strides in their personal development, particularly in raising their self-esteem and inter-personal skills.

    We feel the courses at the castle have offered the young people a real opportunity to work in a setting that many feel they do not have a natural right to access. These courses give them the chance to experience a significant part of their city and culture first hand, and the welcome they receive in this safe, public space further helps to develop their sense of self worth.

    The team for these courses is the young people themselves with museum staff and volunteers, the Creative Arts Youth Justice worker and an animator. The Creative Arts Youth Justice post is a partnership between Norfolk Youth Offending Team and The Garage Trust. It is funded jointly by the Arts Council, Lottery Funding and NYOT. The post is unique in that it is integrated completely within The Garage, a social inclusion charity, whilst working as part of the NYOT. The postholder is able to directly support the young people in a range of creative ways and introduce accreditation where appropriate. This has enabled the setting of individual, personal creative challenges for the young people in addition to the group challenges. It has also provided skilled support to the animator and museum staff. He also has access to the excellent facilities at The Garage which has added to the quality and benefits of the projects. For many of the young people the Castle project has contributed towards gaining their arts awards. As the majority of them are not in education, employment or training this represents a considerable achievement.

    Working in partnership with NYOT means smooth and effective liaison with the young people, parents and carers. It makes it possible for the museum to maximise the value of our limited resources and to make best use of them.

    NYOT and other stakeholders report on the importance of the work with the museums service for the young people in terms of increasing self confidence and raising aspirations, improving concentration and self-esteem, engagement, developing skills and improved emotional and behavioural stability. If you would like any further information do please get in touch: katrina.siliprandi@norfolk.gov.uk

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