Lads Needs Dads – saving the lives of young men in North Essex
The lives of young men tackling life without a male role model are being saved in north Essex.
Lads Need Dads prevents potential problems and addresses existing ones where boys in Tendring are missing a father figure in their lives.
Dads could be missing due to family breakdown, they could have died, be in prison or have simply never been in their child’s life.
The 18-month early intervention programme Equip, Engage and Inspire has been developed for boys aged 11 to 15, providing male-led group mentoring, bushcraft and outdoor activities, practical life skills, community volunteering opportunities, peer mentor training and the opportunity to meet inspiring men and visit inspiring places.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £8,868 to Lads Need Dads from the 2022-23 Crime Prevention Fund to fund an Equip programme in Colchester.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “Protecting vulnerable people is one of our priorities, which is why we are pleased to be supporting Lads Need Dads in this way.
“Their work with young men who are without a positive male role model in their lives also supports our focus on prevention – identifying where there could be the risk of crime or poor mental health in the future and putting in place the support needed to prevent it from happening.”
During the six-month Equip part of the programme, young men take part in weekly self-development group work and outdoor activities, looking at topics such as anger and emotions, dealing with conflict, risk taking and consequences, managing stress, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, and bystander intervention.
The project aims to help boys to develop emotional intelligence, reduce anger, increase confidence, resilience, motivation and self-esteem, as well as improve behaviour, relationships and attitude towards school.
Founder Sonia Shaljean said: “We are the only long-term, early intervention project in the UK working with boys with absent fathers. We work with the most diverse group of young men, from all different backgrounds, with the same common fact of not having access to their biological father.
“It is about equipping and empowering them before they lose their way in life. Boys without a father are at a much higher risk of underachieving or disruptive behaviour and being excluded from school. Eighty-six per cent of boys in custody were excluded from school. We want to prevent that from happening.
“If we had not worked with some of the boys we have done, we may have lost them to suicide. They are at a high risk of that. We are not just preventing them from going into crime and offending, we are also supporting their mental health.”
Just as the PFCC is focusing his efforts on preventing crime from happening in the first place, Lads Need Dads is working to reach young men before their lives are in trouble.
Sonia said: “Early intervention is absolutely key. It is saving lives in the long run, as well as money. Prisons are full of men; the streets are full of homeless men; high numbers of men kill themselves. We want to get to them while they are developing into young men.
“They are at a big disadvantage having no male role model in their lives. Boys without active and positive fathers can have real issues with relationships if they are not helped now. We are helping these boys to be the best men they can be and, in turn, potentially preventing issues such as domestic violence cases in the future, particularly for boys who have been exposed to it themselves.”