Jake, aged 18, is a boy of White British heritage who lives in Southeast London. He lights up the room with his humour, makes a mean lasagne, and has a sharp eye for detail. Jake has also been known to Children’s Services since the age of 12 and been in care since 14. He’s been the victim of child sexual exploitation and has been physically assaulted by people he considered friends. Jake last attended school consistently when he was in year eight. When he was 12, he tried to set fire to a mattress in the family home. By the time his parents separated a few years later, Jake was frequently missing and had become involved in violence receiving 14 charges in two years, and convictions for robbery, criminal damage, and possession of drugs and knives.
When Chris, Jake’s SHiFT Guide, first met Jake, he was remanded in custody – the fourth period Jake had spent in a Youth Offending Institution. Jake had been working with professionals in Youth Justice and Children’s Social Care for six years but had experienced few consistent relationships, whether with family, friends, or professionals – in his life to date. Many of his placements had broken down contributing to Jake’s feelings of worthlessness and that he had to become independent before he was ready. In his need to find a place of belonging, Jake had become susceptible to negative peer influence, and was taking risks to be accepted. The gravity and frequency of Jake’s offending was increasing, and Jake was increasingly vulnerable. Something needed to change.
Getting to Know Jake
With Jake’s long history of professional involvement, it was especially important for Chris to really get to know the ‘real’ Jake. Through spending time with Jake while he was still in custody, a more complex story about why Jake got into trouble began to emerge than was being emphasised in some discussions about Jake between professionals. Chris started to understand Jake’s background and interests and found similarities between them. He also started to see the significant links between Jake’s behaviour and his family history, particularly the ending of his parents’ relationship. Jake shared that sometimes he felt like other professionals around him expected him to fail and made decisions on this basis.
Getting Alongside and Creating the SHiFT Difference
Chris got alongside Jake intensively in the Youth Offending Institution, working with him on day release, and then walking every step with him in the community and with his family. By doing things together Chris has been able to unlock aspects of life and possibility that Jake previously dismissed or felt were not for him. They’ve worked closely together on new ways of understanding and managing emotions and behaviour. They have fun, and Chris encourages Jake to think about what happiness has looked like and what it might look like again, revisiting key moments and places of significance for Jake and supporting him in a myriad of practical ways to build and renew relationships. Supported by Chris, Jake has found a new passion for exercise. Chris has advocated for Jake in numerous settings, from education, to court, placement and alongside colleagues from Children’s Social Care and Youth Justice. The strength of the relationship that has been forged between Chris and Jake, enables Chris to bring Jake’s voice into the room when he is not present and when decisions are being made for and about him.
Now 18, a time when many other services would have stopped supporting him, Jake tells others that rather than the frustrations he used to feel about services not talking to each other, and talking always about him without him, ‘SHiFT just get it done’. In Chris, Jake has an adult who walks alongside him, believes in him, and supports and challenges him to be his best self in all aspects of his life. Jake is doing really well. He is no longer coming to police attention and his time at the gym – often with Chris – helps to keep him busy, well and focused. He recently finished a money management course, helping him to develop the skills he needs to live well independently. Jake has a much better relationship with his parents and is spending more time with them and allowing them into his life more.
SHiFT offers intensive, child-centred, systemic support to children and young people, promising to do ‘whatever it takes’ to break cycles of offending. ‘If you had to explain what Chris has brought into your life in one sentence, what would you say?’, Jake is asked. ‘Hope, he’s brought hope […] and doors, hope and doors, yeah. He’s opened the doors for me to walk through.’