'It saved my life': Ex-young offender reflects on Duke of Edinburgh's Award

10 April 2021, 00:21 | Updated: 13 April 2021, 05:20

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme was founded in 1956
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme was founded in 1956. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A former young offender has told LBC the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme saved his life and helped him set up his own business.

John spoke with LBC reporter James Gooderson on Friday, following the royal family's announcement of Prince Philip's death at the age of 99.

The duke worked with thousands of organisations across the UK to run the programme, including schools, academies, youth groups and voluntary organisations, fostering agencies, young offender institutions and hospitals.

To date, 6.7 million young people in Britain have taken on the challenge of a Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which was established in 1956.

Having previously lived a troubled childhood, John took part in the DofE scheme at a young offenders institution.

His skill during the programme was cooking, which inspired him to set up his very own catering business.

"It saved my life," John told LBC.

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"When you see the cycle of reoffending that goes on, often it's not down to the individuals themselves, especially at that age when everyone's 18, 19 or 20, they all have the potential to turn their life around.

"Most of the time they really want to, but you get sucked into this cycle.

"Doing the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and everything it gave me, as well as leading me on to a career that I'm very passionate about, it just gave me so many other life skills."

He said Prince Philip displayed his crafty sense of humour when he met the duke after completing the award.

"He got to me and he asked about how I did my expedition.

"So I said 'we all went to the Brecon Beacons', so basically a group of six of us all doing the Silver and Gold went off with two officers who were with us and we went walking around the hills - on temporary licence, we were all in an open unit by that point - and he asked if we were 'all attached by ball and chain'."

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The DofE scheme in the UK is part of a global network of organisations that deliver the award.

One of the holders of a Gold Award, referred to on the charity's website as Gemma, from Luton, said: "Doing my DofE has had a huge impact on my general wellbeing as it has shown me that no matter what life throws at me, I can do anything I set my mind to.

"Even though I suffered many different challenges and setbacks along the way, I showed myself and others that no matter what mental health issues I face, it is possible to achieve anything I want. Even when others felt I would fail."

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In a statement following the announcement of the duke's death, the charity invited volunteers and people who have completed the award to share memories at DofE.org - the charity's website.

John May, secretary general of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation, said: "The Duke of Edinburgh's Award has transformed the lives of millions of young people around the world and has touched the lives of millions more through its impact on local communities.

"Through the personal leadership and involvement of our founder, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the award has spread to more than 130 countries and territories and remains as relevant today as it ever was."