Friday was my last day at the Youth Offending Service (YOS), it was also my last working day in London and in the U.K., at least for the forseeable future. Australia and a new set of challenges beckons.
A combination of working at the YOS and my relationship with my wife, which began at around the same time, did something to me. Prior to this time I knew that as a Probation Officer I could do something good for people, I also had an understanding that I have been lucky in my life and should try to do something for those who are less fortunate. However, I then developed a genuine passion for my work, I became much more emotionally connected to the people I worked with and my interest in the wider political sphere and how it affected my colleagues and clients, grew.
This is the reason I care about politics, economics, wealth distribution, because I see young people who, to put it bluntly, have got f*ck all. Less than f*ck all in fact. For if they had nothing at least they wouldn’t have such horrendous, sometimes unassailable barriers to their own progression. A huge amount of what I think about and do in regards to politics and inequality boils down to those young people, resilient, intelligent, inspiring young people, with all the potential in the world, but with little or no means of realising that potential. I believe that a social order must be possible whereby such injustice does not exist.
The move brings a number of emotions and leaving work is strange. I realise I became very attached to my workplace, my colleagues and the young people. I’ve been enormously proud to work in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country alongside people who I respect enormously.
Gangs Specialists, Police, Resettlement Workers, Mental Health Practitioners, Social Workers, Probation Officers, Substance Misuse Workers, Education and Employment Specialists, Support Staff, Reparation Workers, Victim Liaison Officers, people from all different places, walks of life, races, religions, experiences and knowledge. I even got on well with a couple of Charlton Athletic fans. All of these people are truly dedicated to assisting the young people who suffer such extreme social disadvantage and working with them has been interesting and inspiring.
My ex-colleagues do something amazing every single day of their working lives. They provide opportunity where there was none, express praise where little has been received before, give encouragement to those who have forgotten what that is like, fight for people who have only ever been able to rely on their own fight and show genuine care and love to those who are demonised so often.
They do all this for relatively little reward or recognition. Without a word of exaggeration, these people are my hero’s. How often is it that a person gets to work alongside their hero’s?
You probably don’t even know where your local Youth Offending Service is located. Find out. Within those walls there are amazing people doing amazing things and if you are so inclined, you could be a part of that on a voluntary basis. Pick up the phone.
Youth Offending Service Workers everywhere, please take a bow. Then get back to work, your efforts are sorely needed.