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Learning 'Stuff'

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Trevor's worried that he's got an old banger. Having just passed his driving test, he bought a car from a friend but having opened the radiator cap when the engine was hot, 'all this fluid came rushing out!' Knowing nothing about cars, who should he turn to? Yep - you've guessed it - his In2Out Mentor.

Fortunately for Trevor, his Mentor has a reasonable amount of knowledge about car mechanics and was able to explain the different parts of the engine to him and get him to check it over. He told him about why the fluid had come out of the radiator, and they went together to buy anti-freeze/coolant. When they got back, they mixed it to the right proportions and replaced what had been lost from the car. His Mentor also got him to check the oil and explain back everything he had learnt. Trevor has got his car maintenance sorted, is keeping his eye on a small oil leak, and has got some info on garages where he can take it for a service.

Trevor is a great example of a fundamental truth - young people need to know how to do 'stuff'. They need it to navigate life, to flourish, to feel competent and confident. So, who taught you to tie your shoelaces or to use a washing machine?

Learning the practical things of everyday life usually takes place at home as we watch and are shown certain things. Some families cook together, with cherished recipes being passed down the generations; parents or older siblings can help with your first car. Home is a safe environment where, apart from some good-natured teasing, it's OK to try, get it wrong and not suffer any major fall out.

But what if home is abusive, violent, unstable and chaotic? That's the reality for many young offenders, with 39% ending up in the care system. Quite simply, the opportunity to learn about the washing machine or how to make a quick snack passed them by if it was ever there in the first place. Now as a young person, the shame of not knowing means that the openness to try - with the possibility of failure - is too great a risk. The safety of the relationship with their In2Out Mentor is one of few places where they might give it a go.

Teaching life skills is a significant part of the support that In2Out offers. For those approaching release from custody on the Keppel Complex Needs Unit at HMYOI Wetherby, there's our Life Skills Challenge. This not only helps with things like the washing machine and how to iron clothes, but also equips the lads with a few recipes and cooking skills, helped along by the In2Out recipe book, Food and How to Cook it.

Stan struggles with day-to-day tasks and finds it easier to follow set instructions, so the recipe book as been really good. After cooking with In2Out for the first time, he said: "I'm finally learning something that I can apply to real life." Another participant said: "I'm intelligent but I wasn't taught life skills at school, like how to cook. That's why Life Skills is so good."

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