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Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA leads Queen’s students to tackle youth reoffending in Northern Ireland

The Careers, Employability and Skills team at Queen’s University Belfast were delighted to welcome Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA to the launch of the new student development programme ‘Real-World Challenge: Inside the Prison System’ on Saturday 13 March 2021.

The Justice Minister addressed the first cross-disciplinary cohort of over 30 Queen’s students to complete the virtual consulting challenge, which involved expert mentorship from justice agencies in a bid to tackle the problem of youth reoffending in Northern Ireland. 

Joined by NI Prisons Director, Austin Tracey; Olwen Lyner, Chief Executive of NIACRO; Fred Caufield, Executive Director of the Prison Arts Foundation and by staff and inmates from Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Prison, Ms Long advocated for a collaborative, people-centred approach to reduce reoffending, highlighting the following points:

“Rehabilitation is about building positive and constructive relationships with those in our care as we challenge and support them to change. Regardless of what they have done, they are people, just like you and me, and should be treated firmly but fairly, and with courtesy and respect.” 

“There are a range of socio-economic factors which have been known to have an impact on reoffending, including poverty, social deprivation, mental health issues, substance misuse, homelessness and a lack of educational attainment and employment opportunities. These factors contribute towards the reasons why people become involved in crime in the first place and they are often exacerbated through contact with the justice system leading to a cycle of offending which causes significant harm to victims and communities. Addressing reoffending not only means tackling these issues but also creating positive connections back into supportive families and communities so that they become enablers of real change.”

“With children, offending is often a manifestation of underlying issues such as problems within the family home, disengagement from the education system, poverty and social exclusion. A new model of practice based on the child first, offender second approach, includes a focus on adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed practice and signs of safety. Keeping children out of the justice system and out of custody in particular can be key to improving their longer-term outcomes.” 

“The development and delivery of problem-solving approaches means dealing more effectively with the root causes of offending behaviour in a range of areas including both domestic abuse and substance misuse… Having a safe place to live is one of the most important factors contributing towards someone moving away from offending behaviour. So, we want to improve the support offered to these offenders upon their return to the community to ensure that they do have secure housing. Improving access to opportunities for re-education and employment is also crucial.”

“A significant number of offenders have underlying health needs. The Departments of Health and Justice are working to improve health outcomes for people in the criminal 

justice system in particular collaborating with social care professionals to improve services for people in Northern Ireland Prison Service care and also via delivery of a renewed person-centred approach to supporting people at risk of suicide or self-harm…. The Probation Board are also engaged in the early scoping work around the development specifically of a Mental Health Court.”

“There is still much room for improvement at each end in terms of diverting people away from the prison system and from custodial sentences and also ensuring better rehabilitation and resettlement for those who emerge from the justice system.”

Claudine Sutherland, an Employer Engagement Officer within Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s University Belfast said: “We’re delighted that the Justice Minister and Prison Director could take time out of their busy schedules to motivate and inspire our students.”

Mary McLaughlin, a Careers Consultant within Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills, added: “At Queen’s, we’re always looking to give our students access to industry insight experiences and to offer them opportunities to apply their academic knowledge to real-world settings. This is particularly important during this academic year, with lockdown restrictions narrowing the opportunities for exposure to the real working environment. Our Real-World Prison Challenge is a very welcome example of how we have been able to diversify the delivery of our Careers service and embrace digital platforms to continue to support our students and graduates with all aspects of career planning, development and decision making.”

Queen’s University Belfast will be running similar Real-World Challenges in 2021 and beyond and hope to see many more students taking part. Check our events page for details.

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charity Degree Plus Development MEDIA Programme Student blogger volunteering

How to boost your CV and your happiness with charity and development work

Daniella Timperley, a second year Broadcast production student from Randalstown is an International Development intern with the charity Think Pacific. Here are her tops tips on getting into charity and development work as a student…

For some people, getting into charity work happens naturally and other people want to help but don’t know where to start. I’ll help you with that. As a volunteer for over seven years, I have encountered many ways that people can get involved in their communities and abroad. Here’s some steps you can follow to get started:

  1. Do a Google search

This may sound really simple and something you do on a daily basis, but it is as simple as having a look at what is available in your local community. Finding out what is accessible for you is important because in order to stay committed and connected to a voluntary project, it is best that it is easy to get to. Searching what is out there is great for inspiration on what you could possibly be a part of.

2. Find your passion 

Once you have done a Google search, see what those charities do and what causes/social issues they tackle. Is there any that resonate with you? If not, don’t worry you can research into the charities and pick one that you like the sound of. Shooting the charities an email and having that personal connection to a charity sometimes helps make that decision a little easier. 

            If you already have a cause that you are passionate about but there isn’t an organisation in your area that focuses on that, then why not start up your own foundation? I’m sure you’ve heard of the quote “be the change you want to see in the world” from Ghandi. Why not be that person to bring that service to your community? Make sure to define what way this charity will benefit the public and who you are targeting. 

3. How can you help?

After choosing a charity or cause that you feel passionate about contributing to, it’s best to start thinking about how you can be of help. You could have a skill that would be useful to a charity, such as cooking, that would be helpful in a homeless shelter to feed those in poverty, for example, or photography and writing skills that would help a charity create more of an online presence to bring in more donations and community engagement. 

If you feel money would benefit the cause of your choice more than your time, you could be a fundraiser for the charity. You could organise events that can be anything as small as a coffee morning or as extreme as an abseil or skydive. If it is a charity like a refuge, you could use the money you raise to buy supplies such as toys for kids or care package items to bring joy to the residents. You can even run a drive where your community could buy items and donate them to make an even greater impact.

Volunteering virtually

I have been making a difference abroad from the comfort of my own home through the virtual internship programme with Think Pacific. I have partnered with a Fijian organisation to create an awareness campaign for violence against women as an International Development intern. I create infographics for their social media and meeting handouts to provide key information on domestic violence. I get so much from the internship including:

  • Creating work that tackles real problems
  • Increasing my IQ and learn about Fiji’s fascinating culture 
  • Personal mentoring 
  • Endorsement for my work via LinkedIn, job references and a completion certificate 

I hope you now feel inspired to make a difference in your community or abroad. The rewarding feeling you get from helping others cannot be beaten. So, find your purpose and change the world!

Interested in volunteering at Queen’s? Contact Volunteer SU.

Did you know? Volunteering for at least 12 hours counts as one of the two extra-curricular activities needed to self-nominate for Degree Plus through the Combined Experience route. 

The deadline is 1 April.

Check eligibility and apply