If it wasn’t for a simple conversation when I was 14, I’d probably
be the less-than-proud owner of an antisocial behaviour order now.
Instead, at 21, I hold down a full-time job and help thousands of
people across the North West.
As a teenager growing up in Garston, Liverpool, I spent most of my
free time hanging around the streets drinking. On a busy night
there’d be up to 30 of us, and we were just one of many groups in
Garston. People looked down on us because all we did was hang
around and drink but there really was nothing else to do. Sometimes
on a Friday night we’d go and watch some lads who’d robbed cars
show off on the prom. That was our entertainment for the
We all knew we were a “problem” and we had no respect for
authority. The police were aliens to us. At that age I’d never have
thought to ask an officer for help because they were the people we
hid from – we knew we were doing wrong.
The turning point for me was being approached by a youth worker.
One day we were sitting on the church steps – I was 14 and on a bit
of a downward spiral. When he came over we threw our cigarettes
away but he told us he wasn’t bothered about that, he just wanted
to ask us what young people in the area wanted.
It was one of the first times I’d been taken seriously. At that
age, to have someone take the time to ask your opinion makes you
feel really good. It really got me thinking about what I wanted,
and from that point on I was able to turn my life around.
Today, young people in similar situations may get an antisocial
behaviour order slapped on them. Having been a “problem teen”, I
can appreciate that getting tough on antisocial behaviour is
sometimes necessary. But my experience has taught me that tough
laws need to be backed up by provision of facilities and trained
For every 100 young people hanging around the streets, there might
be only two or three who are real problems. The others just want to
feel part of a group because it makes life easier. That’s not just
a youth thing either – everyone likes to socialise in groups.
Adults have pubs, caf’s and restaurants where they can get together
with their contemporaries. Likewise, young people need their own
I got together with other young people in Garston to set up a
drop-in centre called Interchill. Now it has about 200 regular
users. Since then, I’ve helped to write a youth action plan for the
area, and my housing association is also setting up a junior board
for the company to give young people a say over the services
affecting them. Last month, I was appointed to the community fund
panel responsible for allocating lottery money in the North West.
Interchill was set up using lottery cash, so being given the chance
to help similar community-led projects is a great honour.
I’m well aware that I may be the exception to the rule but I also
know there are a lot of young people who don’t get the recognition
Laura Lynch is a community development work at South
Liverpool Housing Group.