The complete jigsaw

This is the second part of Aryden’s story…

On our way back up Bolton Street I ask Aryden about his own experiences.

“I’m sure Dad won’t mind me telling you that we haven’t always had the most amazing relationship at times. I moved out when I turned 18 and for the first couple of years on my own I really struggled finding work, making ends meet and claiming benefits. I experienced how difficult it can be for young people to engage with the system.”

“Did that get you down?”

“At the time it did. It was awful. I found it very hard in the benefits trap and I think that’s a particularly ugly reality for people across the UK just now: would I be better off working or better off claiming benefits. It’s very confusing. Advice can be hard to come by. Certain agencies won’t tell you some things, it’s almost like a labyrinth.”

“Do you think that period of your life inspired you to do BYTES?”

“Oh yes, completely. When I was in that situation I wished someone would just tell it to me straight, I wished someone could just put it all into perspective. I wanted to see the completed jigsaw and not just the individual pieces. So when a young person is referred to us from the Job Centre, say, we can sit them down, tell them how it all works and what they are entitled to. We then tell them how to get out of that situation, feel better off, more productive. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yep. I know exactly what you mean.”

“I find it disheartening when you read in the media that people prefer being on benefits. No they don’t! Why would you prefer to be in that rut, in that trap? It’s so patronising to suggest it.”

We’re back in the kitchen now and Aryden is congratulating Steve – a regular volunteer at YES – on his chopping abilities. “That’s amazing,” he says genuinely. “I’m going to drop loads more on you. Here, have these spring onions and leeks.” And now to me: “So that’s why I wanted to do it. To create a space where people could get advice, maybe some training, have a bite to eat and chat to someone about getting an action plan together and put some perspective back into their life.”

There’s a young woman chatting to Aryden’s dad, Mark, on one of the sofas. “Do you think she’d mind if I took a photo?”

“I’ll ask,” says Ayrden.

Turns out she is from Paignton which is about five miles away. “Don’t they have any advice sessions over there?” I ask.

“They don’t have any appointments until the end of next month, so I’ve come here.”

Angela comes in with half a dozen copies of the local paper. “We’re on the front page!” she exclaims. Sure enough there’s a photograph of all the Challenge winners posing on the steps outside. Ayrden and Steve pour over the article.

‘Six community groups and organisations in Brixham are celebrating after winning cash prizes as part of a national social experiment,’ it says.

‘Each of the successful groups has been awarded £3,500 thanks to the Brixham Youth Enquiry Service Neighbourhood Challenge project. Five local judges spent hours deciding which projects would best meet the themes of the national project, which is to bring communities together and foster relationships between different age groups.’

Rhianan comes in, uninterested in the positive publicity and instead keen to show Angela how her preparations are progressing. She’s already had a spray tan and her nails done. This afternoon it’s the hairdressers.

“Are you coming to photograph me at the hairdressers?” she asks. I think it’s a question.

“Would you like me to?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll come.”

“How are you having your hair done?” Angela asks. “How much are you having taken off?”

“I’m not sure,” replies Rhianan. “It depends what mood I’m in later.”

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