Today, Scott (28) is looking forward to the birth of his first child and planning to go back into education. But until 18 months ago he was regularly in prison and addicted to heroin and alcohol. For years he accepted the view of people around him that he couldn’t change. But eventually, when his life hit rock bottom, he decided he had to do something. Westminster Drug Project and Genesis Housing Association were able to support him as he took the hard decisions to reduce his drug dependency and stop offending: in short, to break the habits of a lifetime:
Scott comes from a small town in Suffolk. When he was nine, his dad walked out and left the family with nothing. Literally. The father had stripped the home of every piece of furniture, curtains, carpets, light bulbs, food. Even the children’s toys. He also left Scott’s mum in hospital after the last in a series of violent attacks.
Scott’s mates suggested he replace some of the missing things by shop lifting and that’s how 17 years of criminal activity started. By the age of 14 he was drinking and smoking. He was doing well at school and won a scholarship to the local public school, but he didn’t enjoy the induction days: “The school was full of people who were not like me.” Just before he was due to go there, he got thrown out of school for bad behaviour, and the chance of a glowing academic future was snuffed out.
He spent the rest of his teenage years drinking, fighting and getting into trouble. By 19 he was taking heroin and carrying out burglaries and car crime to pay for it. “I even stole from my family,” he says. “After what they’d been through, that was terrible.”
Scott spent six out of the next seven years in custody. “I reached a point where I was being arrested twice a week. There were services available to help me but they didn’t really work. Part of the problem was that I didn’t believe I could change. ”
Then a couple of years ago things got even worse. His brother was given a life sentence for murder and he had no contact with his family. “I was homeless too: I spent half the time sofa-surfing and half the time living in a tent in a forest. I told myself, ‘I have to change’.”
Scott took the help that was offered through the Home Office’s Priority and Prolific Offender (PPO) programme. He was put in touch with Westminster Drug Project (WDP) to help him recover from drug and alcohol dependency. WDP’s Ellan Foster takes up the story:
Ellan contacted Genesis Housing Association and they found him a room in their hostel for people leaving prison. “Having somewhere to live made all the difference,” says Scott. “It gave me the chance to sit back and take an overview. I wanted to be in touch with my family, and I realised that I needed to take responsibility for rebuilding the relationships.”
Scott stopped using the cocktail of street and prescription drugs he’d been on, and started a methadone programme. Over the last 18 months he has reduced the amount right down and expects to stop completely soon. He has not committed any offences at all for the last 18 months. Scott now visits his family every week and is looking forward to being a dad himself: “It is really important to me that I do things differently to my father. I have learned to change myself and that change will affect the kind of dad I am.”
Ellan says: “Scott’s achievement is huge. To completely stop offending after armed robbery and being arrested twice a week – to come down from multiple prescriptions to a small amount of one medication – to be part of the family and building a new life with his partner – this is very hard to do. But Scott has done it and he is proof that change can happen.”
Last but not least, Scott is also planning to restart the academic future that stalled when he was 14. “One day I want to go to university. At the moment I am working out how I can study, either through an access course or distance learning.
”The reason I am telling my story is to give inspiration to others. I thought I couldn’t do it but the proof tells a different story.”