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Helping troubled youths is a real bonus; GRAN URGES OTHERS TO PUT SOMETHING BACK INTO THE COMMUNITY.

Byline: JONATHAN GOODE

A GRANDMOTHER who found a new lease of life helping troubled youths back on to the straight and narrow is urging others to do the same.

Eileen Smith, 55, is a member of Warwickshire's youth offending panel which helps youngsters face up to their crimes.

The panels meet with first-time offenders to decide on a sentence - often involving putting things right with their victims and completing work for the good of the community.

Mrs Smith, of Nuthurst Crescent, Ansley, has joined the county's Youth Offending Team (YOT) in appealing for new members to join the service.

She said: "The work gives you a great sense of achievement and helps you to feel you are putting something back into the community.

"No two panels are the same and the young people you meet are very diverse. You have to go in without any preconceived ideas.

"When you meet the person they are often very different than the facts in front of you suggest."

Mrs Smith, who also does accounts for two local firms, joined the youth offending panels after completing a part-time degree course in social sciences at Warwick University.

With her two children grown up and left home, she decided the work would be a valuable way of filling her time.

Mrs Smith, who has two young grandchildren, said: "I have always enjoyed working with young people.

"My degree course helped me to look at things from the offender's point of view as well as the victim's and led me to consider the work."

Panels include two members of the community and one YOT practitioner. They "tailor-make" a programme for young people who have had their first brush with the law. Experts say it is often the first time the youngster has had an adult take an active interest in their behaviour and future.

Heather Walton, YOT manager, said: "We are indebted to the volunteers. They bring an extra dimension to the panels. Their experience of life and the empathy many of them achieve with the young people has played a major part in the success of the panels."

To become a panel member, phone 01926 736180.

jonathan.goode@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

NEW CHALLENGE: Grandmother Eileen Smith gets a great sense of achievement out of helping youngsters. Picture: DARRYL SMITH
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 20, 2003
Words:385
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