By BBC H&W's James Lewis
James has volunteered to work with the Youth Support Services, becoming trained by them in their various projects.
But now it's all gone wrong. I've spoken to him several times on the phone, and have now met up with him for a second time. But this is almost the opposite of the first meeting: where there was hope, now there is just frustration if not outright despair. In fact there's been a hint of this for some time: his mum is in hospital, and he's spent a lot of time with her, rightly so of course, but that means he hasn't been chasing places to live with the housing association, or firming up that job… And things are not good now: his girlfriend and he have decided not to get back together after all; he was told to move out of his friend's flat beause the tenancy didn't allow another person to live there; he still hasn't heard anything from the housing association, whose local office has in any case been closed after the flooding; and he hasn't got much money because, bizarrely, the government's much-flaunted early-release scheme doesn't include making the benefits available earlier too. And as we sit drinking our coffee, he's pale and almost shivering somehow, so I ask if he's still clear of the drugs, and he says yes with such conviction that I believe him. He says the sunken look and slight twitchiness is a result of his anti-depressants, which haven't yet had time to take effect, and it's making him feel unhappy, and tired, and unwell - and until the doctor gives him the all-clear he's not allowed to work, so he can't firm up that job either. In short, everything that could have gone wrong seems to have gone wrong - except perhaps that he's still clean of drugs. But he's still trying, trying, trying. So I do too: I try to work out a point-by-point action plan for the next few weeks, I try to re-enthuse him, I try to reinvent that light at the end of the tunnel which was so clear for him when he was first released. But as I leave I feel pretty low, because I'm not sure I've succeeded.
last updated: 08/10/07