Thursday, 17 October 2013
Lady Jane Fellowes on her battle with youth crime
Lady Jane Fellowes talks exclusively to The Lady about her work with youth crime charity, Only Connect
Written by Melonie ClarkeWhat do a Lady, the only female clan leader in the UK, and a teacher have in common? No this isn't the start of some three men walk into a pub type joke. These women, Lady Jane Fellowes (older sister of the late Princess Diana, aunt to Prince William and Harry), Arabella Kincaid and Emma Kruger are behind a major crime prevention programmes across the capital to help children at risk.
Only Connect (OC), founded by Emma Kruger, tries to help young offenders (by going into prisons and working in communities), and those that have not yet offended but may be at risk of doing so, realise their skills and potential through workshops.
The connect aspect of the charity focuses on giving young offenders positive connections. After being released from prison it's easy to fall back into former social groups. But through the events OC hold, they aim to introduce the young offenders to people who can have a positive impact on their life, be it in the way of advice or even work.
And that's where Arabella comes in. On the committee for the charity, helping to organise fundraising events she is a family woman with great connections and a vital cog in the machine.
"I might be able to introduce a few people who might want to support the charity or get involved in the work in different ways. That allows Only Connect to grow," she explains.
"I never thought I'd be very good at working in prisons. I have been through lots of things in life but I haven't been in prison so that was something I didn't think I could personally help with. But last year I got involved in the committee and then this year I'm chairing the committee. It's a huge honour for me to be involved."
Emma first realised the potential drama could have on those in prisons whilst at university.
"At Manchester University I studied theatre in prison and probation. I spent three months visiting different prisons such as Stangeways and I just became really passionate about. It was something where I could sort of see tangible change."
In the eight years that OC has been around, the programme they offer has come a long way. From a largely drama based programme it has now expanded to include employability course which help with presentation skills and confidence in the employment arena.
Lady Jane is, understandably, a very private person. She absolutely doesn't give interviews – ever. But such is her passion for the project, she agreed to talk to me about her involvement with the charity.
"I have seen over the past few years the inspiring and life-changing work of OC, and know how important their role is in our world today," she stated, with a tangible air of firmness.
"The OC is different in many ways. We see prisoners, ex-offenders and young people at risk of crime becoming assets, not liabilities for London. They are taught and encouraged to use their talents to help both themselves and the community. Instead of costing society – financially and emotionally – by committing crime."
And it's not just talk. Only Connect is having a positive effect on the crime rate in London.
"We have recently seen research which shows that OC has a significant impact on crime in London,' explains Lady Jane. 'It has more than halved expected rates of re-offending. I am more than proud to be part of OC's work."
And while one would imagine the lives of the youngsters that OC helps are a world away from the privileged upbringing Lady Jane enjoyed, she is more than clear on what is of true importance to young people.
"The OC's programmes provide a community to belong to, a family to share your life with and the strength to believe in yourself. Our brilliant young members create social value through their participation in positive projects and activities. In doing this, they discover their own potential and realise their personal dreams."
Daily tip from the lady archive
“The power of suggestion is potent. We ourselves know that. We feel better at once if we are greeted by a cheerful friend who remarks how well we are looking.”The Lady. The Power of Suggestion. 23rd May, 1929
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