Newcastle social enterprise wins two national awards for work with young people

The Children and Young People Now CYPN Annual Awards Ceremony

01 December 2014

The Skill Mill Limited has won two national awards for its work with young people in the North East.

The Skill Mill is a social enterprise working to improve the local environment by providing employment opportunities for young ex-offenders in water and land management.

The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers awarded The Skill Mill the John Hawkins Award at the annual Youth Justice Convention. Chair Gareth Jones said: “John Hawkins would very much have approved of The Skill Mill due to its innovative, creative approaches and positive outcomes, using the input and advice from young people themselves”.

The Children and Young People Now Award for Youth Justice, judged by both professionals in the sector and a panel of young people, is made to the initiative that has made the biggest contribution to the life chances of young offenders. The young judges described the scheme as, “a really great, sustainable project”. The professional judging panel said: “The Skill Mill project appeals to young people, is innovative in delivery, and demonstrated success for all those who took part. The judges thought the entry was also strong in terms of its partnership working and potential for sustainability”.

Cllr Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for Investment and Development, said: “I’m delighted that The Skill Mill has won these two national awards. This reflects the hard work of The Skill Mill and its partners to support young ex-offenders to turn their lives around and find employment, in a way that helps local communities”.

Beginning as a Newcastle Youth Offending Team reparation project for young offenders, The Skill Mill launched in 2013, and benefits local communities by carrying out water and land management projects such as stream clearing, helping to reduce flood risks and improve the environment. Young employees undertake training with Houghall College to achieve a City and Guilds Level 1 qualification in Land-Based Operations, with ten young people having found employment through the scheme. Partners include the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water.

Northumbrian Water’s sewerage operations controller, Linzie Pentleton, said: “Supporting the local communities we serve is very important to Northumbrian Water, and we are proud of our partnership with the Skill Mill, which is having such a positive and life-changing impact on young peoples’ lives. Winning the awards demonstrates the dedication and hard work of all the partners involved and also of the young people themselves.”

Davie Parks, Team Manager at Newcastle YOT, said: “Winning the John Hawkins Award was fantastic, knowing that the award is judged by our peers and young people, but then being announced as the CYPN Youth Justice Award winners within the next 24 hours was unbelievable! It is a testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone involved in the project, and we want to thank all our partners with the vision and courage to make this happen.”

• The attached photograph, taken at The Children and Young People Now (CYPN) Annual Awards Ceremony shows, left to right:
o Stephen Bediako (Director of the Social Innovation Partnership and Co-Director of Project Oracle);
o David Parks (Team Manager, Newcastle Youth Offending Team and Director of The Skill Mill Ltd);
o Linzie Pendleton (Sewage Network Controller, Northumbrian Water Limited and Director of The Skill Mill Ltd);
o Paul Brownlee (Service Manager, Young People’s Services and Director, The Skill Mill Ltd);
o Charlotte Thorpe (Business Support, The Skill Mill Ltd).

• The Skill Mill started out as a Newcastle YOT reparation project, which led to significant reductions in reoffending among the young people taking part. It launched as a social enterprise in September 2013. The Skill Mill benefits local communities both socially and environmentally by undertaking water- and land- based management. When young employees complete their training, they are considered for employment opportunities with partner organisations.
The Skill Mill has cultivated strong partnerships, with partners including the Environment Agency, Newcastle City Council, Northumbrian Water, Northumbria University, The Esh Group, Tyne Rivers Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust and East Durham College. The firm tenders for small contracts with local authorities and other organisations, and is supported by an Advisory Board drawn from local government, private companies and charities. More information here:

• The John Hawkins Award is presented by the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) at the annual Youth Justice Convention. John Hawkins was the treasurer of AYM from its inception in 2001 until his death in 2011. A YOT manager in East Sussex, he was keen that young people be given the opportunity to develop themselves and improve communities. More information here:

Children & Young People Now is the dedicated magazine for professionals working with children, young people and families. The Children & Young People Now Award for Youth Justice is awarded annually to the initiative that has made the biggest contribution to improving the life chances of young offenders, or those at risk of offending or reoffending. Entries are invited from local authorities, youth offending teams and youth services, as well as voluntary organisations and individual projects. More information here:

• For more information about this, please contact Davie Parks, Team Manager at Newcastle Youth Offending Team, email: or telephone: 0191 277 7377.

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