Teen who grew up in care says prison offered him ‘stable’ way of life
Teen who grew up in care from the age of five claims spending two years in prison was ‘not a punishment’ because it was a new ‘stable’ way of life
- Jamal, 19, from Manchester, was jailed at 16 and called it his ‘longest placement’
- Had anger issues as kid because couldn’t articulate what had happened to him
- He is finding life as an independent adult isn’t easy after a traumatic childhood
- Features on 5 News documentary Duty of Care about young people leaving care
A teenager who grew up in care from the age of five and ended up spending two years in prison claims his stint inside was ‘not a punishment’ because it provided him with a new ‘stable’ way of life.
Jamal, 19, from Manchester, is one of the young people featured on a new Channel 5 News documentary report called Duty of Care.
The programme, which airs on Tuesday 7 May, follows five young adults who have recently left the care system and are coping with newfound independence, universal credit and mental health.
Presenter Tessa Chapman follows Kelly Robinson, the director of Independent Together – a company responsible for helping care leavers have somewhere to live and the life skills needed to look after themselves.
Jamal, 19, from Manchester, is one of the young people featured on a new Channel 5 News documentary report called Duty of Care
One of her cases is Jamal, who was sent to prison when he was 16 for his violent behaviour.
He said he ‘benefitted’ from the two year sentence, calling it his ‘longest placement’ since he was five years old.
Jamal explained: ‘They call it jail, it’s not a punishment, it’s just a new way of life, and it was good because they said, “wake up at this time, go to sleep at this time”, eating meals.
‘Before I went to jail I was living by my own rules because I was sick of the care rules, I was running away from every home I went to.’
Speaking about the traumatic moment he was whisked away from his childhood home due to domestic violence in the household, Jamal said his lasting memory is hearing his mother screaming.
Jamal grew up in care from the age of five and ended up spending two years in prison. He claims his stint inside was ‘not a punishment’ because it provided him with a new ‘stable’ way of life
‘Mum was in the shower, and they took me and my (three) sisters, and they were all crying and that, bawling, screaming, and I was just quiet,’ he said.
‘Then I just heard [Mum] screaming and then they drove us away and that was it.
‘I’m the only boy, but being young and not being able to protect my family, that’s probably why I was so violent. You just bury it, that’s what people expect you to do because it’s in your childhood.’
Jamal said he had anger issues when he was a child because he struggled to articulate what had happened to him and how he felt.
Speaking to Kelly Robinson, the director of Independent Together (centre) , and presenter Tessa Chapman (right) about the traumatic moment he was whisked away from his childhood home due to domestic violence in the household, Jamal said his lasting memory is hearing his mother screaming
‘People in the playground, the kids, they were scared of me, the teachers saw me as an angry kid so I got kicked out, I got arrested all the time,’ he recalled.
‘You can’t do that as an adult, you have to bury it.’
Speaking about his traumatic past had a visible effect on Jamal, who broke down while talking about his mother.
He exclaimed: ‘They just tried treating me like I’m some f*****g tramp – I weren’t raised by no tramp. My mum raised us proper.’
Giving him a supportive hug, Kelly said: ‘He’s got all the opportunities to be successful, and what he’s been through in life, it’s just so not fair.’
Last year 11,080 young people left the care system – a rise of 31 per cent in a decade. At 18 they are expected to become adults overnight, with Universal Credit now their main form of financial support.
Jamal said he had anger issues when he was a child because he struggled to articulate what had happened to him and how he felt. Kelly is now helping him get back on his feet by finding a flat
Last year a report by MPs found this group of young people are being ‘let down by the system, with often devastating consequences’.
One of those people who feels let down is 21-year-old Callum, who also appears on the programme to share his story.
From the age of seven, Callum was regularly beaten at home before being taken in by his grandmother. From there was moved between emergency care homes, foster placements and hostels.
He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and admitted he can’t even go to the supermarket on his own for fear of suffering a panic attack.
‘Even going over to Tesco, I don’t like it because there’s too many people in there,’ he explained.
From the age of seven, Callum was regularly beaten at home before being taken in by his grandmother. From there was moved between emergency care homes, foster placements and hostels
‘I literally have to sit here, wait until I see about one or two people in there, if that, before I can leave my door and go in.
‘If by the time I get to that door any more people have gone in, I’m turning around and I’m going back home. I physically can’t do it. I start to panic, and if I start to panic and have a panic attack, what on earth am I going to do if I’m on my own?’
As a result Callum missed an appointment at the job centre which resulted in him being sanctioned, meaning his high rate universal credit payment was cut by 50 per cent – the highest level – from £580 to £290.
Research by The Children’s Society published in August 2017 revealed care leavers are five times more likely to be sanctioned that other benefit claimants.
Callum has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and admitted he can’t even go to the supermarket on his own for fear of suffering a panic attack
Last year a report by MPs recommended care leavers under 25 only ever lose a maximum of 20 per cent of their benefits, but the Department for Work and Pensions rejected the idea, saying sanctions help motivate care leavers to prepare for and move into work.
They will consider what changes could be made to lower the rate, but won’t report back until the end of the year.
The rising number of care leavers in the UK is contributing to pressure on council funding.
Also featuring on the programme is 18-year-old new mother Jade, who gave birth to son Harrison just over a week ago.
Also featuring on the programme is 18-year-old new mother Jade, who gave birth to son Harrison just over a week ago. Pictured with Kelly, left, and Tessa, right
Like her father, Jade spent her childhood moving around the care system and can count up to 20 placements. Now she and boyfriend Anthony are determined to give their son a stable family life out of care.
Jade has mild bi-polar and has coped with mental health problems throughout her teens.
She has been on Universal Credit – but was given and advance payment so she had money from the day she turned 18. She now pays back £30 a month so gets £220 a every four weeks instead of £250.
Jade told Tessa how she spent her childhood moving around the care system and can count up to 20 placements
Jade has put in claims for child benefit and child tax credit but needs to wait for that to come through. When she was given her maternity grant, she bought two months’ worth of milk for the baby.
‘I know he won’t go short if I can’t afford it,’ she said.
‘It was alright when it was just me, but he can’t not eat, so I stocked up – nappies, wipes, so when I do get paid this month I can still manage without having to struggle too much.’
Duty of Care: A 5 News Tonight Special airs at 6:30pm on Tuesday 7 May on Channel 5.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit (UC) replaced six existing benefits – Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – with a single payment.
It has been rolled out gradually across the country after starting in pilot areas in 2013.
New benefit claimants have been put onto the system, but from July 2019, around two million people receiving the old benefits will be moved onto UC, which is due for completion in 2023.
Among those being moved to UC will be about one million working families and 745,000 people unable to work because of long-term illness or disability.
UC is paid in arrears, and the first payment is not made until at least five weeks after a claim is lodged. Claimants can apply for advance payments to avoid hardship while they wait.
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said that when UC is fully rolled out, it will deliver £8billion of benefits to the UK economy per year.
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