Dave Cassie interview: escort service for young offenders

Louise Hunt meets Dave Cassie who heads up a social worker-led escort service for young offenders that aims to make a difference in the lives of the troubled young people it works with

Louise Hunt meets Dave Cassie who heads up a social worker-led escort service for young offenders that aims to make a difference in the lives of the troubled young people it works with

Being able to form a bond with a young offender is as important as being able to handle yourself physically, says Dave Cassie, founder of CAR-ES UK – the country’s only social work escort service for juveniles.

In Cassie’s line, this includes young people deemed to be a menace to society. “We deal with the most high-profile cases that you read about and see on television. We cannot discuss who we have escorted, but our workers know the real stories behind the headlines because of their close relationship with the young people and their families, so it is an enormous responsibility.”

Occasional working with offenders in the media and public glare has meant having to use back entrances to court and decoy cars. The job can potentially be dangerous. “There have been attempts to free young offenders we were escorting. In the early days we had cars attacked, one where a key member of a car-stealing gang was freed by men in balaclavas and baseball bats. That was a rarity, but we may have confrontations in court. Generally speaking, we are calm in a crisis.”

Despite the potential for confrontations, Cassie says the service has always strived to differentiate itself from the image of burly uniformed guards and dog-cage vans. “We have always made the distinction that we are professionals in saloon cars. While we have never ignored the physical difficulties of the work, the important thing has always been the human interaction,” says Cassie, who qualified as a social worker in 1971.

Building a relationship with the young person and their family is at the heart of the organisation’s approach and, as far as possible, the same team will accompany them whenever they are moved. For some young people this may be a rare experience of consistency. “Sometimes we see young people who are not allocated a social worker, or who have had a string of social workers, so they are able to build more of a bond with the escorts who they may see more regularly,” says Cassie.

Making sure that a young person’s belongings are safely sent to their family, or remembering to take their favourite snacks on a journey, are some of the “little things that are very important in creating the bond that we have”, he adds. “Sometimes young offenders have referred to our escorts in court as important people in their lives, almost in a way that they are an uncle or a grandad. That brings home to you just what an impact you are having and how important the escort role is. It’s not just a job.”

Being with a young person at a vulnerable time in their lives can give the escorts an insight into why they have committed their crimes. “We do have situations where we can really get down to brass tacks and talk about some of the things they have done.” He says such discussions have a poignancy. “On that day the whole focus is on the bad side of the person, and sometimes they can talk to us more positively about themselves. Our workers are receptive to enter into appropriate discussions,” says Cassie, explaining that this can mean having to pass on information to the authorities.

One of the most satisfying aspects to the job is hearing how a young offender is doing, he adds. “It’s pleasing that many of the young people we have escorted do go on to live on the straight and narrow and go back to their family, and that maybe our workers did play a part in that by offering them a more positive experience in adverse circumstances.”

CAR-ES UK history

CAR-ES UK biog CAR-ES UK began life in 1989 when Cassie and his then colleagues on County Durham’s emergency duty team were asked to assist in transporting some of the more difficult young people based at Aycliffe secure unit in their spare time.

Demand for their services quickly grew when local authorities from across the country realised they could employ the social workers to escort young offenders and represent them in court, which was more economical than sending their own social workers, Cassie says.

Recognising a business opportunity, he formed CAR-ES UK in 1991 and the service quickly expanded as it created a network throughout the country of social workers and other professionals, including many retired police, prison and community officers. It now has 146 escort staff

“Something that started off many years ago as a means of providing a bit of extra money has turned into something that’s hugely important for the thousands of young people we have come across,” says Cassie.

CAR-ES UK is part of the CARES Group, which provides fostering and residential places to young people.

Find out more about CAR-ES UK or e-mail dave@cares.co.uk

What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace

Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care Sign up to our daily and weekly emails

This article is published in the 7 October issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Bonding with young offenders


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.