September 23 2014 Latest news:
Monday, May 26, 2014
The chief executive of a Swiss Cottage youth project told cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith about the “soul-searching” the organisation has undergone since the murder of a young person in a gang dispute in 2011.
Mr Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions in David Cameron’s government, visited The Winch, in Winchester Road, Swiss Cottage, to find out about the work carried out by the project.
During his visit, The Winch’s chief executive Paul Perkins told Mr Duncan Smith about the murder of 22-year-old Milad Golmakani, of Winchester Mews, Swiss Cottage, who was stabbed to death by four teenagers in a tit-for-tat dispute between rival Camden gangs in 2011.
Mr Perkins had worked with one of the convicted killers, now serving a life sentence for Mr Golmakani’s murder, years before the crime, and could tell early on that he was at risk of ending up in prison.
“There was an immediate sense that further down the line he was going to get in trouble so we employed a terrific youth worker who was actually an ex-gang member and gave almost every hour of the day, working with him and his peers,” said Mr Perkins.
“Different people have different views on gangs and groups but they were certainly a high-risk group who had a beef with the group local to Swiss Cottage. They were based more on the east side of the borough.
“It [the murder] really triggered a period of soul-searching where we were saying, ‘We make a promise to have an impact on children and young people’, but we just weren’t convinced that we were doing enough.
“Our activities had really come to reflect local authority funding streams rather than a theory of change that would make a difference.”
Mr Perkins discussed a number of youth projects in Harlem, New York City, USA, that young people and youth workers from The Winch had visited in the wake of the murder as part of a research trip.
Mr Duncan Smith, who described the murder as “terrible”, said he too had visited youth projects in Harlem and could see parallels with the work done at The Winch.
“This is quite similar to what they do, but they do it in the schools,” said Mr Duncan Smith. “They hold them [youth projects] in the schools after school hours and then the parents come along and pick them [the children] up.
“They get their college returnees to come back and put some time back in, to do a lot of work in the evenings as college role models with the kids. It’s brilliant – I was very impressed.”
Mr Duncan Smith was welcomed on the visit earlier this month by Camden Conservatives leader Cllr Claire-Louise Leyland and Cllr Simon Marcus, Tory parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.
He also met youth worker Andre Kpodomu, from The Winch’s Promise Academy, and young people involved in The Company, an enterprise programme supporting young people to establish businesses.
The former Conservative Party leader spoke about the grants and programmes on offer to young people looking to set up a business or find work through Jobcentre Plus.