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Taking the Plunge
Monday 28th June, 2010

Taking the Plunge
James Leatherbarrow taking ‘The Leap of Faith’.

CONFIDENCE at an all-time low and nervously walking off the end of a plank suspended fifty feet in the air proved a step in the right direction for Wigan teen James Leatherbarrow.

“He was going to back out like he’s done so many times in the past but he didn’t want to let people down”, explains caring mum Hazel. “His shyness has got worse as he’s got older, he’s not out-going and is always the last to get involved with things.”

James’s lack of confidence had become such a problem that it affected his school work and ability to interact with others. Behavioural concerns saw the 13-year-old referred to the Wigan Youth Inclusion and Support project who deal with young people at risk of offending.

The team enrolled him on a Greater Manchester Police Authority (GMPA) course designed to increase the confidence of young people in policing, through a variety of workshops including animal handling, assault courses and mock crime scenes.

“The idea of this programme is to encourage teenagers to engage with police officers through interactive activities, to break down barriers and build relationships” says Lisa Buklovskis, GMPA Engagement Officer.

“At GMPA we have a duty to increase confidence in policing; many of the young people involved thought we were the police until they realised that we are completely independent; we’re here to make sure the police do their job properly!”

Two action-packed days in June saw James working with police horses and chucking himself off fifty foot ledges, blindfolded, with only a harness for support! His youth workers applauded the positive attitude and confidence he showed by getting involved with everything that was thrown at him.

“We called it the ‘Leap of Faith’ - getting ready to jump off that ledge made me very nervous, I tried not to look down as everyone looked so small on the ground, but I overcame my fear of heights”, describes James. “My work is getting better at school and the whole experience has helped me. I hope to do more work with the police – especially training the dogs - they were amazing”!

Graham Doubleday, Operational Manager of Wigan Youth Offending Team explains, “courses like this prevent offending and anti-social behaviour before it becomes a serious issue – this is proving an effective way of preventing young people from entering the criminal justice system."

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