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Sandwell Youth Offending Service’s Artsmark journey began in late 2017, with just an idea that we would like to do something different. That different was to use creative arts as a method to engage young people during their time in the service. We wanted to use methods that offered young people the opportunity to express themselves in different ways, when compared to traditional methods. It was our hope that by doing so, this would also impact positively on engagement, raise aspirations and improve young people’s relationships with their parents and carers.

When we set out during the dark months of Winter in 2017. We started our journey with a small drama group, made up of young people who were subject to an Intensive Supervision and Surveillance order. We did not know where it would take us. Fast Forward three years and we are still growing and learning valuable lessons along the way, but like Art, our service has become more creative, diverse and continues to be organic and forever evolving.

The work that has been produced by young people has been mind blowing. They have produced everything from live theatre to photography along with everything in between. Some of the young people’s work has gone on to win awards from Koestler. I am very proud of our service that aspires to change the way that we work and engage with young people. Not only by supporting short term programmes such as Summer Arts College, funded and supported by Unitas, but by making it part of our everyday business and fully imbedding creative arts into our service.

Last year I wrote a blog for Arts Connect as an ISS case manager, this year I am writing it as a full-time Arts Lead, demonstrating a level of commitment to the arts. This level of commitment led us to become the first Youth Offending Service to be awarded an Artsmark, something I am very honoured to have seen.

There are not enough words that I can write to describe the work that we are doing, and the impact it truly has on young people. So, I would like to finish with a quote from a young person, who engaged in Summer Arts College 2019, who at that time had been permanently excluded from school. Upon finishing he re-engaged with education and is now on role at Halesowen College Studying Performing Arts.


“This could genuinely change a lot of kids lives….it made me feel like, I had an actual talent. It actually made me feel like I was getting something, like is this the one? Is this something I actually want to take on. Which I do.” 

Dan M – Summer Arts 2019


Chad Smith, Arts Lead, Sandwell Youth Offending Service