Inmates get arty at Polmont YOI

A grant of £142,000 will allow young offenders to pursue creative arts while doing time for their crimes at Polmont YOI.

The money, provided by the Life Changes Trust charity, will enable Impact Arts to use art activities to help the young inmates transform their lives. The initiative is entitled Care and Opportunity, Celebration and Outcomes, or COCO for short, and is designed to build up confidence and self-esteem.

According to the trust care-experienced young people are often more at risk of poor mental health, homelessness, higher rates of early death, including suicide, and are at greater risk of offending behaviour.

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Those who will benefit from the project in Polmont have also, in the majority of cases, experienced multiple disadvantage, often coming from communities affected by high levels of deprivation.

Impact Arts aim to work with young people and the local community to provide opportunities for change, and allow young people who have been in the care system to learn new skills and share their experiences in a way they may not have been able to do so before.

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Jamie Proudfoot, Impact Arts programme manager, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing a quality arts programme to care-experienced young people in Polmont. The nature of musical performance and writing means the Coco Project will be hugely valuable for the young men involved, offering a medium to express themselves and explore challenging ideas and emotions.

“The skills and abilities developed as part of that process will equip young people with the life skills and creative skills they will take with them on release.”

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COCO project activities will focus on story-telling, including song-writing, DJ-ing, creative writing, visual arts and design.

Those completing multiple activity blocks will then have the opportunity to become peer mentors, giving them an opportunity to model positive behaviours and to build more positive relationships with staff, corporate parents and other support agencies.

Additionally, the project will improve the life chances of young people through offering accredited qualifications (for example ASDAN Creative Arts Award) which will support the transition back in to the community.

The COCO project funding award is one of fourteen awards made by the Life Changes Trust under the banner of ‘Creative and Active Lives’, with a funding total of £1.75 million.

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Heather Coady, Director of the trust’s Care Experienced Young People Programme, said: “The difficulties that care-experienced young people can face are well-documented, from experiencing neglect and deprivation to coping with poor mental and physical health.

“This can have a major effect on their overall well-being, which is compounded by the experience of being in prison. However, as we have seen time and again, with the right support, care experienced young people can – and do – flourish and achieve just as much as any other young person.

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“The COCO project will give these young people skills - and hope - for the future, allowing them to express and explore their own experiences and aspirations.”