Junior Smart, Founder of St Giles’ SOS Project and former offender, has today had his work helping and campaigning on behalf vulnerable young people exploited through criminal gangs recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List through being awarded an OBE.
Junior established St Giles’ SOS Project in 2006 on his release from a 10-year prison sentence. Initially a pilot project helping young people in Southwark, Junior was the sole Caseworker. It has grown over the past 13 years to now work across the UK; helping hundreds of young people being criminally exploited through county lines and serious violence make a safe and sustained exit. It also helps prevent thousands of others from getting involved through the schools-based SOS+ Programme. The team currently have an active caseload of nearly 1,000 clients and reached 55,728 people through SOS+ sessions last year.
Junior, who gained an Honorary Doctorate in 2018 and has also been included in the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners List alongside receiving numerous awards for his work, said: “This is a wonderful surprise and I am completely humbled by it. When I left prison I really struggled to get work because of my criminal record. St Giles were the only people who gave me a chance. I seized it fully with a determination to help prevent young people from going down the same path I did. There is now a team of 40+ staff and volunteers who share similar backgrounds to mine and are all working at the forefront – tackling some of the most complex issues in society. Every day, we are driven and passionate about helping our young clients out of the desperate situations they are in.”
“Today’s announcement is really an honour for the whole team at St Giles who all show dedication and commitment to helping people who have a lot to offer society but are often unfairly judged. We believe that everyone can contribute to society if they have the right training and support. I hope others will see this as proof that we need to see beyond the stereotypes and ensure someone’s past should not hold them back in the future.”
SOS’s approach is based on St Giles’ Peer Advisor Programme which offers professional training and employment to people with direct first-hand experience of the issues facing those they are helping. This has been recognised as a key factor in the SOS Project’s success both through project evaluations and feedback from partners and young people who have been helped.
Over the years, the team and its members have won the Charity Awards, the Centre for Social Justice Awards, Third Sector Awards and the South London Press Awards. They have also given evidence at numerous Select Committee inquires and other policy and public affairs forums to share their personal and professional insights.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT TAMSIN GREGORY ON 07770 017368 OR EMAIL TAMSIN.GREGORY@STGILESTRUST.ORG.UK
Notes to editors
Junior joined St Giles in 2006 on his release from prison to establish the SOS Project. It is now one of St Giles’s flagship projects.
St Giles is an award-winning charity using expertise and real life experiences to empower people who are not getting the help they need, held back by poverty, exploited, abused, dealing with mental health problems, caught up in crime or a combination of these issues.
We believe everyone has the power to turn their life around, regardless of their situation. Many of our employees have been in similar situations and use their lived experiences to inspire and support those living through it right now.
We work in 35 prisons in England and Wales and deliver community-based services in London, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, the Midlands and Wales. These are through the 65 different projects we currently offer tailored, one-to-one support to help people with a diverse range of needs.