Honour for youth worker who helps the anxious and excluded
Sheila Hancock, who grew up in a pub in King's Cross, becomes a dame
11 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
THE director of a youth charity has shared his delight after being named among the New Year Honours, but said the Covid crisis has given many insight into the fear some young people feel.
Jason Allen, who is the director of St Mary’s Youth Centre in Primrose Hill, was awarded the BEM.
He set up the project 15 years ago when he was 19 and set about trying to help people like him who hadn’t been supported by social services.
Mr Allen had been living in a hostel and was in a similar position to many of the people he now helps.
He had left school without any GCSEs and felt let down by the system. “I really had a feeling when I was that age that there was a whole cohort of young people slipping through the net. They are not engaging with social services or with youth services. They’re not doing well in school. I wanted to start a project that would work with them on their terms.”
The centre offers advice sessions, counselling, mediation between gangs and young people at risk – and runs other services such as football sessions. It also works in schools and pupil referral units.
He was nominated by a former colleague Nick Waters who left the centre last year. “My mum was crying when I told her,” Mr Allen said. “I’m really humbled by it.”
He added: “I slipped through the net educationally. I was completely ostracised, teachers didn’t bother with me because I would deflect, because I felt inadequacy. I would cause issues and distract other people and I’d be excluded. When you’re excluded that leads from one thing to another.
“People say you have a choice, but when I was younger I didn’t think I had a choice because I wasn’t getting the right support, I didn’t know how to. I thought ‘this is my life, this is how it is’.”
The charity employs 10 caseworkers and offers a 24/7 level of care and advice to young people up to the age of 25.
Mr Allen’s team were out on Christmas Day, delivering presents to 40 of Camden’s most vulnerable youngsters, but his support has helped people involved in gangs go on to study law at university or start football academies.
He warned that there were still young people “looking over their shoulder knowing they could be killed at any time” and that there was “high levels of violence”.
Mr Allen said: “I can’t stress the amount of anxiety among the people we support. We’ve lost many young people along the project and we’ve supported the friends of young people that have been lost and families and trying to support them in how they handle their trauma. So many times they can’t handle it.”
Meanwhile, actor Sheila Hancock, who grew up above a pub in King’s Cross has been made a dame. Her family ran the old Carpenter’s Arms, which she described as a “jolly place” enlivened by her mother’s piano playing and her father singing The Road To Mandalay.
UCLH’s consultant anaesthetist Professor Ramani Moonesinghe was made an OBE, while the Whittington Hospital’s chief nurse Michelle Johnson received an MBE.Kentish Town-based Wasfi Kani awarded CBE for services to music.
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