Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner visited Brinsworth Academy in Rotherham on Friday, 12 October to see the ‘Average Joe’ production performed by SAFE@LAST.

The thirty minute production tells the story of how a young boy’s life spirals out of control very quickly when he gets involved with people he thinks are friends but turn out to be involved with a criminal gang.

The shock drama performance is funded by the Commissioner from his community grant scheme and covers subjects such as alcohol, drugs, sexting, grooming, child sexual exploitation, blackmail, rape and missing from home.

The Commissioner provided £4,800 to fund the set-up costs and deliver ten performances of ‘Average Joe’ to schools across South Yorkshire, engaging with 1,500 students aged from 13-years.

Dr Billings said: “The performance to the year nine students was very hard hitting.  Some of the young people will understand from their own direct experience the situation that Joe found himself in and will relate to the chaotic lifestyle that he was subjected to. All will realise how easy it is to be tricked unless you keep your wits about you.

“The way in which SAFE@LAST delivered the performance was engaging and highly relevant.  The students are unaware of what is about to happen and will have thought that the beginning of the performance was a real life incident unfolding in front of them.

“Average Joe was a very thought provoking performance, that took the pupils on a whirlwind tour of how easy it is to make quick decisions that could affect their lives forever.  Joe made some devastating choices that resulted in him being blackmailed and abused.

“I hope Brinsworth Academy Year Nine think about the consequences of such decisions and learn from Joe’s mistakes.”

During ‘Average Joe’ the students are seated for assembly, unaware of the drama about to unfold around them, as a ‘Drunk Mum’ crashes in looking for her son.  The drama performance interlinks with on screen visuals in the style of a video diary.  Pupils are led to believe that Joe’s life is getting better through each decision he makes – until towards the end, when the true situation is revealed.

As the performance takes a tragic turn, the audience are shocked and saddened with the outcome.  Although they are reassured that what they have just seen was performed by actors, the screen then displays some heart-breaking real-life footage of young people who have lost their lives in similar situations to the one acted out.

The assembly concludes with a work-shop where the pupils are encouraged to talk about what they have just seen and discuss the availability of help and support in the local area and through the school’s safeguarding.

Katie Eastburn, Education and Prevention Officer at SAFE@LAST said: “We are really grateful for the support from the Police and Crime Commissioner for enabling us to reach as many young people as possible and make them aware of the risks and dangers associated with running away and child sexual exploitation.

“We have already delivered Average Joe to over 8,000 young people over the last year and the response which we have received from schools across South Yorkshire has been overwhelming.

“We are very proud to be able to provide a complete service which not only brings this production to schools, but also offers young people one to one support where necessary, as well as signposting to our free, 24 hour helpline.”

SAFE@LAST, which is part of youth homelessness charity Depaul UK, has been delivering education and prevention work across South Yorkshire schools for over 10 years. The aim of the programme is to educate and inform children and young people to make safer, more informed choices. SAFE@LAST equips them with the resources to find help and support at a time in need, if they ever were at risk of running away from home or being thrown out of their home.

If you would like more information, or to book ‘Average Joe’ for your school or workplace please get in touch with Katie by emailing [email protected] or calling 0114 2787152.

If you are a young person and would like to use the 24-hour SAFE@LAST helpline, call: 0800 335 7233.