Last week, the Social Impact Society was honoured to welcome Rob Owen OBE, the Chief Executive of St Giles Trust and Junior Smart OBE, a former gang member and founder of SOS Gangs Project.

As a charity, St Giles Trust is unique in its use of trained ex-offenders who use their own experiences to inspire others to break the cycle of offending. A comment from one ex-offender is telling of its positive impact, “when I met Junior, it was like walking into a dark room and turning the lights on”.

Both Rob and Junior powerfully presented the issues surrounding the county lines system. It not only results in the tragic grooming and indoctrination of 8-10 year olds, many of whom experience challenging familial circumstances, but tragically alters the entire fabric of society.

Last year, 150 young people were killed in violent gang activities. This is often explained by the limited opportunities for young people to come together, and the prevalence of broken families.

Junior Smart, however, believes that every individual is capable of change. His SOS Gangs Project provides holistic support for those struggling in life. He personally strives to eliminate the perception that ex-offenders are incapable of benefitting society, explaining how loyal, dedicated, and passionate they can be.

Rob and Junior argued that is now a necessity to ensure that media sources do not condone or perpetuate the issues surrounding county lines activity, and that schools find more effective solutions than excluding pupils, so that the youth of today can live in safety and fulfilment.

We want to thank them very much for their visit.