In court for 22 separate offences – would you give Billy a second chance?

27 February 2009

Billy lives with his parents, three brothers, uncle and grandmother in Thanet. He’s been in trouble with the police for vandalising the local train stations and high streets; he has been to court on 22 separate offences of graffiti. He has also been in trouble with the police for fighting and drinking alcohol in public places.

The Children’s Society Thanet Participation Project works with children and young people aged 5 – 18 through a special scheme called the ‘Diary Awards’. This scheme asks young people to directly contribute to their community by developing and designing their own activity or project.

The awards encourage groups of children to get together and plan an activity and apply to the Diary Awards scheme for a grant of up to £500 to carry out their idea. Each team must think of a project that will have a positive impact on their local community.

Billy wanted to participate in the Diary Award scheme to prove to his parents that he could achieve something positive, without getting into trouble with the police.

Upon meeting Billy it became apparent that he would become top of the pecking order! He was the biggest and tallest in the group, one of the eldest and was the most confident in the group when expressing the decisions for the diary.

As time progressed and the relationship with the staff became trustworthy, he started to show that he was also the most sensitive member particularly towards a younger child who suffered from allergies and an illness.

Billy became more approachable to the other members by showing his caring side. The worker nurtured this sensitive side by always heaping praise on Billy when he was being kind, she ignored the attention seeking showing off behaviour and challenged his unacceptable behaviour by asking him to consider the consequences of his actions and to put himself in the other persons shoes. All the other members accepted Billy as the leader of the group, which he achieved without resorting to bullying his way to the top.

From speaking with Billy it appeared that this was the first time ever that he had achieved something positive by showing empathy and sympathy to other young people. He was very proud of himself and he was very pleased that we were very proud of him too. Billy left with more friends than when he first started the project.

Billy’s parents contacted the project support worker and explained how they felt about the impact the project has had on their son, they explained that he has broken old patterns of aggressive behaviour, he hopes that he can continue with other projects in the future, he is now motivated and believes in himself with an improved outlook on life.

Billy has shown great improvement in his behaviour. The project allowed him to be himself within the group, there were no expectations of his behaviour and the worker had a very calming but firm approach to his attitude, she gave him praise when it was warranted but also challenged his behaviour at times with authority and set boundaries at the start of the group so Billy knew where the boundaries lay, he was also aware that the consequences of his actions may have led to him receiving disapproval from the group.

Establishing trusting and supportive friendships was a high motivator for Billy; he discovered that the group gave him respect for his views and sensitivity not for his unacceptable behaviour. Billy has discovered to his delight that people believe in him and has now attained true friendship.