Dorset is a beautiful place to live.  It has countryside, the sea and no motorways.  It is a place that people enjoy their retirement in, and has over 27% of residents over age 65.

It sounds idyllic.

However, Dorset has areas of deprivation in the top 10% for the country.  There is little major industry, no global employers, rising housing costs and a seasonal economy with low wages and no training.

We work with young people from all walks of life.

Let me tell you about Paul.  His family lives in a very beautiful rural area of Dorset, both his parents travel 20 miles to work.  He used to attend the local youth club when he was 10 and 11 years old, but when he moved up to Senior School he had an hours journey on the bus to school, and an hour back again in the evening.  By the time he was 15 he didn’t bother go any more.  At weekends there were no buses to get into town and no way of walking – it was too far and too dangerous walking on the road.  So Paul spent more time on his Xbox with his on-line friends.  In the village the place to meet was the Rec.  No-one played football there anymore, it was known amongst the kids to be where to get and smoke cannabis.  So for company, Paul went there and made more new friends.

Paul had always enjoyed school, but with his new habits came a change in his personality, and he no longer had any interest in playing football or hanging out with his old mates.  He now attracted a new friendship group – one centred on his new interests – alcohol and drugs – both readily available to him now.

He was having a bad day when it was his turn to see the careers service, so missed his appointment.  The school insisted on him meeting a careers advisor, and the only available advisor was based at Routes, Young People’s Advice & Information Centre, in Dorchester.

He didn’t like it when he got to Routes – too many people, too much chatter, no-one he knew. But taking that step began a different journey.

It was easy for our experienced worker to see the signs that Paul was feeling anxious about being there and found space to chat quietly.  This first visit didn’t change everything in Pauls life – but he regularly popped into Routes to chat when he was feeling too anxious to stay in school.  Drugs, and the money to buy them, was all he could think about.  Gradually he divulged more about his life and the issues he was facing.  He listened to suggestions about how to turn things around, but Paul was enjoying the drugs too much to take any advice seriously, and became withdrawn, lacking in confidence and his self-esteem was low.  But when a new project started at his local hall where he had the chance to get back playing football, Paul gave it a go.  This 6-week programme rekindled his interest, not just in football but in living a healthier lifestyle.

Paul enjoyed the football.  His confidence around others grew, he became the team player he once was and his health improved with less alcohol and cannabis. School friends still pressured him back into his addictions, and he struggled to move away from his old ways. 

Paul kept up with his football, giving him focus at school and increased his resilience to his unhealthy choices. Paul is now completing his GCSE’s and is expected to gain the grades he requires to go to College and continue his studies.

Paul was one of the lucky ones and came to us at the right point. By working with several projects run by Dorset Youth Association Paul was able to improve his physical health, increased his engagement at school, which led to an increased employability, reduced his anti-social behaviour and improved his health and wellbeing.

The impact of the work Dorset Youth Association has had with Paul has decreased his reliance on benefits and use of statutory services including health and social care, reduced his involvement with the Police and criminal justice system, and increased his chances of an improved quality of life.