Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

ABDI HASSAN (Southwark Youth Justice Services)

ABDI HASSAN (Southwark Youth Justice Services)

Abdi Hassan

COMMENDEE 2022-23: “A fantastic ambassador”, Abdi is Commended, as a Health and Wellbeing Officer with Southwark Youth Justice Service, for the passion, warmth, and kindness he brings to the role, and for his exceptional ability to form effective relationships with young people, their families, colleagues, and partners.

‘Abdi’, says Andrew Hillas, Southwark’s Head of Service as well as his Nominator, ‘is a fantastic ambassador for the YJS,’ and ‘often the glue that ensures Southwark YJS provides high quality services for its young people’ – ‘a unique staff member whose ability to form effective working relationships with a wide range of young people and parents makes him the “go to” person.’ He adds that Abdi’s ‘warm and kind personality’ helps create ‘effective professional relationships with young people quickly’ – and notes how their feedback in turn stresses his ‘reliability and genuine interest in their welfare.’

Andrew says Abdi creates and maintains ‘excellent working relationships with partner agencies, large and small,’ who ‘appreciate his forthright, sincere approach to his work and the preparation he takes with young people before referring them to other organisations.’ He cites Abdi single-handedly establishing ‘a highly useful’ and now longstanding partnership with London Community Boxing – a service that’s led many YJS young people to get ‘physical and emotional support, and obtain constructive leisure activities’, and seen several go on to permanent employment at the boxing gym. His deep knowledge of the Borough, says Andrew, makes him ‘a mine of information’ about resources, and as someone who knows ‘generations of families’ living there’, he’s often ‘an oracle of knowledge’ able to ‘draw links’ between young people, local families, estates and communities.

Clinical Practitioner Moradeke Ogunrekun says Abdi ‘considers young people not in isolation, but within the context of their families, social graces and intersectionality, remaining curious about them, adding ‘it is an absolute pleasure to work with Abdi’ who is ‘a real asset to YJS and ultimately the community at large.’ Another colleague, Senior YJS Officer Jordan Record says Abdi has demonstrated ‘time and again’ a willingness to reach out and support some of the most high-risk young offenders known to our service, and has earned ‘huge respect from case managers, senior management team and the wider community of Southwark.’ Another colleague describes Abdi’s ‘undeterred passion for the children of Southwark.’

Andrew adds that Abdi is ‘charming and humorous’, and also rates his ‘honest, understanding, direct and caring approach with children’, saying:

‘I have never heard of any child that doesn’t work well with him. Abdi is a passionate campaigner for change. He tirelessly fights for justice and equality for the children and families in which we serve. Abdi has given so much to the borough.’

Meanwhile his Line Manager adds:

‘Abdi is the Youth Justice ‘glue’ both holding young people and working away in the background to ensure that all front facing work runs smoothly. Abdi has a real knack of engaging our “harder to reach” young people, isn’t easily put off by their occasional non-cooperation, doesn’t give up and has a memory of young people past and present that surpasses all belief. Young people ask about him which is proof of memorable past positive engagement.

When gyms were closed, he ensured that young people still got the opportunity to train, taking all he had learnt from co-facilitating with the boxing gym, buying a new boxing bag and instead delivering sessions on a 1:1 basis at the YJS.’

Abdi explains that he has worked for Southwark Youth Justice Service for the past 16 years, ‘twelve as a substance misuse worker, and the last four in my current role as a Health and Wellbeing Officer.’ He notes that ‘the majority of my work is led by young people and their interests’, and says ‘the best part of my role is being able to work creatively with young people from the local community to encourage positive change in their lives by way of seeking out different activities.’

He adds that this year the focus was on creating a film written, directed and acted by a group of local young people:

“I had a supportive role by speaking about the project to young people and supporting their attendance and growth on the project, and encouraging my YJS colleagues to make referrals to the project. Filming took place over summer and the film is due to be released soon. This was an important project as it was driven by young people for young people. Often, young people’s voices are lost and this was a fantastic opportunity for young people to be heard, and I was privileged to support them to achieve these goals.”

 This quiet self-effacing pride is reflected in his concluding remark that simply but powerfully states ‘I am an enthusiastic person, and I enjoy motivating young people to make positive changes in their lives and overcoming the problems they face.’