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The Skill Mill at Europe's Biggest Funfair - Newcastle Hoppings

When I started working in the youth justice system around 1998 it was a time of change. A new ‘New Labour’ Government had just come to power and there was a palpable optimistic mood. A new approach to the Youth Justice System in the form of the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) came into force and for me it was the start of a career in children’s services that has been more rewarding and interesting than I could have ever imagined.

During this time my views on the young people coming into contact with the justice system have been consistently validated; that the vast majority of young people who commit crime are victims of their circumstances - decent, resilient, smart and, given the opportunity, capable of making a positive contribution to society.

Fast forward to 2022 through catastrophic events; a global financial crash, austerity, a global pandemic, unprecedented climate change and environmental harm and increasing social inequality and a devastating war in Europe.

The Skill Mill emerged after the global financial crash where austerity measures, in a counter-intuitive way, created a space for innovation and different thinking. Thankfully, there were some senior leaders at Newcastle City Council at the time who were also pre-disposed to finding new creative solutions to the problems. I founded the Skill Mill not from any fundamental belief system or ideology but simply to offer young people a chance to reach their potential in ways that were previously not there.

So far we have employed 289 young people across 15 different places and only 23 have been re-convicted. That is 8% compared to a 72% reconviction rate for young people with 11+ previous convictions, is no mean feat.

Even with my own high levels of confidence the success never ceases to amaze me. Last week I spent some considerable time with 2 of our teams working on the Town Moor at the Hoppings fair (Europe’s largest funfair) carrying out the environmental maintenance – there is no job too big or too small. The transformation is evident the second you meet the young people - happy, confident, conscientious and diligent hard working folk, pleased to be working, earning and making a difference.

For years I would refer to the same young people as service users, clients, cases, defendants, young offenders and now I am proud to call them colleagues.

If you want to experience the same levels of satisfaction and need work done or would like to offer a ‘next step’ job to one of our staff then please get in touch. You will not regret it.

Davie Parks - Managing Director


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