Article taken from Crewe Chronicle, featuring Voice for Children’s Liam Hill telling his story.
A Crewe man who turned his life around after a tough start was one of the three main speakers at the national Youth Justice Board’s convention. Liam Hill is 24. As a youngster he spent most of his early life in and out of the care system.
But after the opportunity came to run a pilot scheme offering mentoring and participation services to children and young people in or on the cusp of the care system, he turned his life around.
He is now the Director of Voice for Children, an organisation which offers children and young people living in care, and those with experience of the youth justice system, an opportunity to learn about their rights and responsibilities.
Liam recently joined two other speakers at this year’s Youth Justice Convention – the most significant event in the sector’s calendar, sharing stories about how their involvement with knife crime, violence and gang affiliations brought them into contact with the youth justice system.
All three speakers, having completely turned their lives around, now work with other young people at risk of offending.
“I was placed on a full care order at the age of five and moved around 64 times before I was 21. My behaviour became increasingly disruptive when I was in care and from the age of 10 I was repeatedly arrested for criminal damage – smashing cars and throwing things around.
“The effect of being a 10-year-old in a custody suite is horrible. You get arrested, taken into a cell and questioned by police. It’s scary. I already saw the police very negatively because my parents were in trouble with the law a lot, so my negative feelings for the police were reignited when I started getting in trouble. I got more and more violent and by the age of 17, I’d committed two common assaults.
“My experiences of both the care system and the youth justice system were very negative. I think I was severely let down by the system.
“Staff in the care homes would call the police after something I’d done there, and the police would come and be heavy-handed, pushing me to the ground. I felt the care home needed to address my anger management issues rather than calling the police.
“These negative experiences are what eventually inspired me to change the course of my life and help other young people like myself. I enrolled in college and started doing voluntary work with Cheshire East Council.
“The real turning point came when I was given the opportunity, through the council’s Youth Engagement Service (YES), to run a pilot scheme.
“We started by working specifically in social care within the council doing training, participation and consultancy as voice for children. Whilst doing this the opportunity came to do mentoring and participation within YES.
The scheme I set up with my business partner Jodie, was a success and Voice for Children, Cheshire, is now a fully accredited organisation with AQA, which offers children and young people living in the care system, or in the criminal justice system, an opportunity to be accredited in units such as Maths and English. We also co ordinate our own mentoring service for service users.”
Lord McNally, Chair of the YJB, said: “This year is particularly significant: we have a new Justice Secretary and the potential for a new direction of travel for youth justice.
“It is therefore now more important than ever to hear from those at the cutting-edge of policy developments, as well as from the young people themselves who have experienced the youth justice system first-hand, and whose transformed lives remind us that the good work of those on the frontline must go on.”