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

HORACE DAWKINS (Hackney Youth Offending Team)

HORACE DAWKINS (Hackney Youth Offending Team)

COMMENDEE 2021-22: Horace Dawkins has been a champion of children and families for over 45 years. He is Commended for his role, during the last 13 years, as a Youth Support and Development Worker for Hackney’s Prevention and Diversion Team. His passion and dedication for this work is undimmed, and informed by his lifetime of commitment to grass-roots communities – and especially the black community. Yet for all his expertise, it’s the heart he brings to his work that stands out, and that comes from another place, as he explains: “As a Rasta I try to teach Love to young people, love of themselves and others.”

Heart, passion, and values

Pauline Adams, Principal Head of Service for Early Help and Prevention, says that Horace “always puts heart, passion, and values into his work”. He consistently gets positive feedback from the children and families he works with, she says, and cites an example of restorative justice mediation between a mother and son after an assault. (Family violence is an extremely difficult issue for all concerned, and was the focus of Susan Pearson’s 2018-19 Butler Trust Award). After Horace’s intervention and a successful meeting, reports Pauline:

“The mother said that Horace had made a bigger difference to her family than he would ever know. That he had been the role model to her son and to herself that they had never had. That he had taught them not only how to listen, respect and treat each other with empathy, but also reminded them of how much they loved and needed each other. She said that thanks to Horace they can now talk and come to an understanding. She said that the things Horace told her during their conversation had helped her change and see everything that she could not have seen without her help. She thanked Horace from her heart for his dedication and for the changes he brought to hers and her son’s lives.”

She adds that “Horace is an inspirational role model whose skills, knowledge, values, passion and dedication serve to enrich the lives of all he meets.” He deserves, she says, to be commended for his lifelong commitment to putting children first.”

Those Horace works with agree, and bring a vivid perspective of their own, too. One parent reported that “I felt annoyed and frustrated at the system but Horace has been brilliant. He has been so supportive and professional I now view this work as a good thing. I have nothing but high praise for him and my son is also really happy to be working with him.”

A child Horace has worked with said that “I feel good about the work I did with Horace on this programme. I have accomplished a lot and come a long way. It made me feel good and positive about myself. I learnt to control my anger and develop my ability to think and this learning will help me make the right decisions. It was a really helpful programme which built my self-confidence.”

Head of Service Brendan Finegan notes that Horace always balances support and challenge. While recognising the need to protect the community, Horace doesn’t just set boundaries, Brendan explains, he also “always ensures that a child who has fallen into trouble with the law knows not only the consequences, but always gets the chance to tell their story of how they came to be involved in our service.”

Horace himself pulls no punches about working in one of the toughest and most deprived Boroughs in the country. “I try to provide holistic support to all young people and their families”, he writes, “to see them as young people first and not just offenders, enabling them to know themselves, build their confidence, to make positive changes, and to take responsibility for their actions.”

He sees Youth Work, he says, “as my mission”, in which he sets out “to make changes for, in particular, the lives of black young people.” This is fuelled by his own history, as he eloquently and powerfully explains:

“This stems from having to learn to deal with blatant racism at a young age while uplifting my peers educationally. As a youth, I had to take the lead in the fight against Racism, which came in the form of the National Front, whose intention was to get rid of black people by any means (our parents were afraid of the backlash, and did not want to cause any problems). We created Black Power and raised consciousness, and challenged the system, re-educated ourselves about our history, and found pride in our identity. I have seen how the system changed the culture through divide and rule taking the form of “Tokenism”, to the point now where black people have lost their identity; this has inspired me to remain in the service at my age, to support young people in getting to know themselves and take control of their lives. Being a Rasta I try to teach Love to young people, love of themselves and others, as the division among black youths stems from the hate created by racism, only Love can unite us to conquer. My motivation is the love of my people and the survival of my race.”

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