Rainbow Services making a difference to young people in Harlow
A young man who sold drugs on the streets as a teenager turned his life around thanks to a unique intervention programme. The now 19-year-old changed his pathway after completing a 12-week woodwork and mentoring workshop aimed at young people displaying risky behaviours.
The Rainbow Youth Workshop is run by Rainbow Services (Harlow) and provides positive activities, role models and sustainable pathways for 14 to 16-year-olds in the town. Young people at risk are referred to the programme from schools, youth services, youth offending teams and the police.
They learn woodworking skills, as well as group working, communication, decision-making and independent thinking and walk away with qualifications in health and safety and carpentry hand tools. They can also secure a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to enable them to work on a construction site.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £15,000 to Rainbow Services in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2019-2020 Community Safety Development Fund to continue running the workshops after a 12-month pilot. The PFCC also provided the original funds to set up the scheme in 2018.
The young man, who was referred to the scheme by the probation service, said: “I was sent to probation for dubious lifestyle choices. The workshop gives you lots of opportunities to do something better with your life. It’s a big help.
“Before Rainbow, I would be out on the streets selling drugs to make money; not because my family didn’t have any money, just because I got sucked into that life. The stories people tell, the music you listen to, what your friends do; all these things influence you. No matter what, you don’t listen until you get caught.
“Since I started going to Rainbow, it opened up a much bigger picture. I’m not going to lie, they had to do a lot of convincing. But, it worked. I listened. They sent me on a three-day training course and then booked a CSCS card test for me. And I passed.
“The very next day, I started my new job and put my old life behind me.”
CEO Sharon Summerfield said: “The funding we have received from the PFCC is everything. We are a charity and so without this money, we simply could not do the work we are doing.
“Our aim is to re-engage young people with positive role models and education. The reason the workshop works is because it offers something different to school. This is a different environment to school; it is more like a work environment. There are very strict boundaries and discipline, but everyone is treated with respect and as an equal.
“This work has the ability to turn people’s lives around.”
It is hoped the project will be extended in future to include younger children.