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

SUE PEARSON (Leeds Youth Offending Team)

SUE PEARSON (Leeds Youth Offending Team)

Sue Pearson

AWARD WINNER 2018-19: Sue is an Education Officer for the Leeds Youth Offending Team. She wins an Award for the empathy and skill she brings to her “life-changing” work with troubled families, and for the dedication and compassion she demonstrates in addressing the issue of child-to-parent violence.
[Sue also receives the Keith Bromley Award for Education & Skills Training, supported by The Bromley Trust.]

Initial Nominator and Line Manager, Karen Fawcett, says Sue makes ‘a huge positive difference’ to the lives of young people and families in Leeds. Sue is excellent at ‘supporting young people with challenging behaviours and complex needs to attend and achieve at school’, great at building thriving partnerships, and at encouraging parents to negotiate an often challenging system. (Remarkably, Sue ‘also organises support to make sure young people attend their GCSE exams, ensuring we know young people’s exam timetables and getting young people out of bed and transporting them to school.’)

In addition to this work, Sue co-ordinates the Parent and Children Together (PACT) programme:

‘PACT is a simultaneous intervention for young people and mums, where the young person has been displaying violent or aggressive behaviour towards their mum for at least 6 months. The programme runs for 12 weekly sessions, with a mums’ group in the morning and separate groups for boys or girls in the afternoon, with the last session being a joint celebration event. Leeds YOS delivers the programme alongside family intervention workers from Leeds City Council and parent mentors, who are women that have completed the programme previously.’

Feedback about PACT from mums, says Karen, ‘often outlines how it has been a life changing experience. The mums’ self-confidence and ability to parent their children soars and most of all they feel listened to and supported. Both the current parent mentors are attending university.’ She adds that ‘staff love working with Sue because they know she will go out of her way to support them and she is so skilled at engaging with young people with the most complex needs.’

Butler Trust Local Champion and Deputy Service Manager, Rebecca Gilmour, wrote that:

‘For over a decade Sue has been the backbone of her area youth offending team. Her ability to engage young people is fabulous and she has an ability to win trust and motivate them to aspire for better things. She never gives up on young people who are frequently poor attenders or excluded from provision, often with unrecognised learning needs or disabilities… Her relentless optimism, positivity and energy means she is a great ambassador for our service.’

Rebecca adds that ‘the mums who attend consistently transform from being defensive and beleaguered when they first begin the programme to being more in control, confident and with clear aspirations for a better family life and a plan about how to achieve it.’ Describing ‘an excellent organiser’ who ‘knows the importance of the little details: nice biscuits, a prompt response, a good sense of humour, remembering names, showing an interest in everyday lives’, she notes that PACT has gone on to receive national attention as one of the few programmes specifically focusing on adolescent to parent violence.

Colleagues’ testimonials give a flavour of Sue and her work, with one saying ‘I feel privileged to have met Sue and worked alongside her’, and the creator of PACT saying:

‘Sue has PACT running through her veins! She is knowledgeable, passionate and as excited about it as she was when it started 4 or 5 years ago. She has an excellent bond with the mums and young people who come through the programme.’

A participant in PACT wrote to thank Sue: ‘Thank you so much for your support over the last few months. I have learnt so much from all of you and although home can still be difficult it has improved massively – that is down to all of you.’ Meanwhile a young person wrote:

‘Sue is absolutely lovely and she will always help you out as best she can. For example, she takes me to school. She has never let me down with my education.’

A Deputy Headmaster who has worked with Sue for the past 15 years says she ‘has been nothing but a pleasure to work with over this time, her dedication towards the students she is assigned to is remarkable to see and she can always see a positive in any situation and a way forward.’

The Head of Leeds Youth Offending Service, Andy Peaden, calls Sue ‘inspiring, optimistic and energetic in her approach. She can always be relied upon to do what’s needed for a young person or indeed for the service, however long it takes and is a willing volunteer for all scenarios… a manager’s delight!’

Sue herself gives more detail about the PACT programme and its importance to its users:

‘In 2012, a colleague and I recognised a huge gap in provision in Leeds to work with parents and children who were experiencing child to parent abuse. This was having a huge impact on families – it was causing family breakdown, disrupting young people’s education, significantly impacting on families’ mental health and employment. We decided to do something about it.

Over a 12 month period we researched, spoke to families and agencies and to other areas, and wrote the PACT programme. PACT is a 12-session programme to work with mothers and their children to increase family safety, to repair family relationships and improve outcomes for all. We delivered awareness raising sessions across Leeds and set the context for the programme to be delivered. We wrote and delivered multi agency PACT training – and got the agreement for PACT to be delivered by a multi-agency team.

Over the last 5 years, I have delivered training and awareness raising sessions to approximately sixty staff. I have trained and supported a multi-agency team to deliver the programme to 160 families.’

Sue concludes with some simple but affecting words:

‘Working for the YOS is sometimes frustrating, sometimes upsetting but always a privilege to be allowed into families’ lives and to be able to help make a difference.’

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