Liam case study


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Liam is 14 years old and is currently living in a local authority Children’s House after he, and his younger sister Alison, were removed from their parents care 18 months ago. Both parents are intravenous drug users, use alcohol to excess and there were continual reports of domestic violence which required Police intervention to resolve their physical alterations. Both parents were pro-criminal in their attitudes use their children to assist in breaking into houses, shoplifting and stealing cars. Many of the offences occurred within the area local to their family home and this resulted in the family being targeted by the victims of their, and others, criminality.

Liam had been unable to sustain any school placements and he was in a pattern of being excluded from all placements, Liam was unable to accept direction from teachers and this would frequently result in him reacting in an aggressive behaviour towards staff and other pupils there.

When LOVE learning became involved, Liam was permanently excluded from school and had just left a Secure Placement outside of the local authority. No schools, Residential schools or Alternatives to school were prepared to consider any referrals for an education placement for Liam due to the risks that he presented towards himself, other pupils, property or teaching staff; Liam was bored and had no structure to his daily routine and this was prompting assessments as to whether he met the criteria for Secure accommodation again. There was a cyclical pattern of Liam being secured, being back in the community and then re-offending again and this needed to be changed so that Liam was able to make appropriate changes to enable him to make choices that would enable him to achieve as an adult.

A significant factor with Liam was that he had Social Work involved in his life and, rather than this promoting positive changes, it actually created a dependence which was a mirror of the patterns that his parents and older brother were showing; Liam’s older brother was currently in a Young Offenders Institute and Liam was showing a belief that it was inevitable that he would end up in a similar situation himself. Liam had no expectations regarding his future, he felt he would end up on benefits like his parents and that the DWP and Social Work would look after them without having to work for a living. Liam exhibited common behaviours and feelings from a young person that has experienced disadvantage and oppression within his life and community. The only way to have possessions was to steal them from others and then those items were yours for the time that you had them; cars, phones, laptops, money, etc.

LOVE learning focused our intervention on promoting positive behaviour and accountability for negative choices. Whenever Liam made inappropriate choices, we would focus on why he made that choice and why more positive actions were not as attractive for him.

Liam also viewed all of his offences as victimless as he felt that everyone else was wealthy and could afford to have their items stolen off them; he also believed that insurance companies cover any loss that his victims may occur. We undertook parenting work with both parents so that they would support all interventions to try to ensure that Liam’s pattern of offending would reduce. They were reminded that they needed to agree to not involve Liam in their criminal activities but this was not practical.

Both parents were unable to engage appropriately so the decision was to introduce other adults that exhibited pro-social behaviours who could establish relationships with Liam that were appropriate, supportive, positive role models and had the skills to listen and then offer advice in a manner that Liam could understand. The reality was that we cannot change previous behaviours but we can all work together to try to promote a more positive future.

Many of Liam’s negative choices were due to him trying to promote a certain image of himself to his peers along with significant boredom due to a lack of structure to his daily routine. LOVE learning offered support to Liam at different times each day and also at weekends and in the evenings. There was a 24 hour helpline which was available for Liam whenever he needed support or was at a point of crisis. Whenever negative incidents took place, we would talk through the series of events that led to him making these choices and then support Liam to identify when he could have make different choices which would have enabled a more positive outcome. LOVE learning supported Liam to assess his relationships with his peers and then reflect on whether they were actual friends or young people he associated with and offended with. It was challenging for Liam to discuss his peers as no young person wants to realise that he doesn’t have any real friends as friends are there to help and support you rather than contribute and influence negative behaviours.

While Liam still has a long way to go to enable him to unlearn many of his behaviours, he has engaged well with adults that he recognises as supportive towards him and also evidence that they care about his well-being. Although Liam has been at several schools, has two parents that love him and has had intensive support from numerous agencies throughout his life, he has never had adults that are readily available to support him at any time that he needs it and are able to identify the many positives that he displays on a regular basis. Many of the discussions that Liam has with LOVE learning are very challenging for him but he knows that all conversations are meaningful and have the purpose of supporting him through crisis. Liam is beginning to evidence that he can make some positive choices and these need to be recognised and rewarded rather than focusing on previous mistakes.