The chief executive of a charity working within Southwark Youth Offending Service has been commended by Princess Anne for his his work helping young people break a cycle of crime and re-offending.
Mifta Choudhury, CEO of Youth Ink, was recognised by the Butler Trust, which seeks out what it says are the best examples of dedication, skill and creativity found in the criminal justice system.
Youth Ink was founded by Mifta in June 2016 as a way to help children and young people who have found themselves in the criminal justice system who may have experienced trauma and difficult starts in life.
The charity’s staff all have lived experience of criminal justice and use this to forge a bond with vulnerable youngsters and help them move forward with their lives.
A key aspect of the charity’s work is training young people to become mentors, helping them deal with difficult emotions in a healthy way and preparing them to move into the working world.
One man, Craig (not his real name) was referred to Youth Ink and the Peer Navigator programme as a way for him to think about his options and reflect on different ways to manage his emotions as well as meet people who had similar life experiences as him.
He said of the scheme: “I would be in jail now without Mifta’s support, he helped me realise that I’m better than I thought.”
Mifta thanked Southwark Youth Offending Service, and the charity’s staff and volunteers for their work, saying: “We believe that the responsibility offered to young people, through the Peer Support Navigator Network and the acquisition of skills and responsibility, together with the assets of self-esteem and self-worth, are crucial in breaking the cycle of exclusion, offending and re-offending.
“We believe that by highlighting the positives that can be drawn from user inclusion, positive change can occur throughout the criminal justice system.
“Youth Ink is charity led and run by and for people with experience of disadvantage.
“By working with the most marginalised young people we seek to create a feeling of community and empowerment of young people.
“Our trauma informed Peer Support Navigators who have broken the cycle of offending, recognising that people can only give to others what they have experienced themselves.”
The head of Southwark Youth Offending Service, Andrew Hills, praised Mifta’s dedication.
“Mifta has spent long periods developing trust with the Peer Navigator group, many of whom have themselves experienced very traumatic backgrounds,” he said.
“This has not been a quick or easy achievement. Mifta has built a natural rapport with the young people he works with.
“Mifta has an excellent ability to be clear about his expectations and boundaries.
“His style of challenging support has been highly effective. None of his Peer Navigators have re-offended, demonstrating his ability to assist them to develop and maintain crime free lifestyles, characterised by their developing pro-social attitudes and views.”
Southwark councillor Jasmine Ali, the cabinet member for children, schools and adult care, said Southwark was lucky to have someone like Mifta working with its vulnerable young people.
“We are extremely lucky to have someone like Mifta working within our Youth Offending Service, his passion to improve the lives of the young people he works with is evident and clear to everyone who works with him.”