Guest article from the Wise Group
The Wise Group is a social enterprise with one overarching aim – to lift people out of poverty.
Our work supports a broad church – people caught up in crime, households experiencing fuel poverty and fuel fear and those for whom learning new skills will help them find and stay in work. Few people get richer going through the justice system, so diversion is one of the most effective ways to prevent people from becoming trapped by poverty .
That’s why our early intervention programme, New Routes No Limits, has been designed to give young people the skills and knowledge to make better life choices and minimise the chance of them entering the justice system. It applies learning from our successful national New Routes Mentoring programme which supports people leaving prison.
A recent pilot of New Routes No Limits at Glasgow’s Springburn Academy showed us how important it is to work with and empower our young people to make choices that divert them from a path many see as inevitable.
No Limits was delivered in the school over six weeks to 11 young people in S1 to S3 – with 1-2-1 mentoring offered in addition to group work. The course was led by Wise Group mentors, some of whom have personal experience of the justice system, mental health challenges, homelessness or addictions. This gave credible, relatable and knowledgeable support. We analysed data of 4,000 customers who were being released from prison and identified common themes which led to offending. These themes form the basis of the topics covered by No Limits and include: Managing peer pressure; using drugs and alcohol; trauma; building positive relationships; violence and improving mental wellbeing. These topics can, of course, be tailored to local needs.
The value of the programme at Springburn Academy was highlighted when teachers noticed changes in the behaviour of one of their young people. As a bright, able young man, his behaviour had become increasingly erratic. During the first few weeks of the programme he came out of his shell. Wise Group mentor, Michelle, said: “He was attentive in the group, especially when we spoke about drug use and violence. Each week a guest speaker shared their personal story of the consequences of their actions and the impact on their life. He always asked questions about how they got there and why they made those decisions.
After hearing these personal stories, he approached his pastoral care teacher to ask for help about issues in his personal life. He explained that the topics discussed at the group resonated with him, that the Wise Group mentors understood exactly what he was going through and gave him confidence to ask for help.
Depute Head Karen Watt explained: “We have seen the benefit and impact of the course on the pupils who attended. It augments the work we do already with Early and Effective Interventions and gives young people a forum to get information about sensitive topics from experienced people who aren’t police or teaching staff.”
Campus cop in the school, PC Alan Duff, was instrumental in bringing the programme to Springburn. He said: “The attendance on the course has been consistently high – which is great given it is completely voluntary. I have seen the young people looking out for each other to make sure they attend it each week. That shows me they value the course and enjoy attending.”
In our final week, we arranged a boxing event focused on communication and teamwork delivered by RUTS. British Bantamweight Boxing Champion, Kash Farooq, even made a guest appearance!
Kash, who grew up in Glasgow, brought his gold British Champions belt. The young people were delighted to wear it and be photographed with a local hero.
If you’d like to find out more about what we do, or would like to work with us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit wisegroup.co.uk.