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Murdered Ipswich teen’s step-mum qualifies as youth worker

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Ipswich MP (then candidate) Tom Hunt visited Nansen Road Baptist Church during the 2019 General Election (left to right: Debbie Dunne, Neville Aitkens, Priti Patel, Helen Forbes, Catherine Head, Terry Charles and Tom Hunt)  Picture: ARCHANT

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Ipswich MP (then candidate) Tom Hunt visited Nansen Road Baptist Church during the 2019 General Election (left to right: Debbie Dunne, Neville Aitkens, Priti Patel, Helen Forbes, Catherine Head, Terry Charles and Tom Hunt) Picture: ARCHANT

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The stepmother of a murdered Ipswich teenager is hoping to use her experiences to bring about positive change after qualifying as a youth worker.

Helen Forbes and Neville Aitkens  Picture: OLIVER SULLIVANHelen Forbes and Neville Aitkens Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

Helen Forbes qualified as a youth worker alongside two volunteers from Reflections – the youth club she co-founded with Tavis Spencer-Aitkens’ father, Neville.

More: Father and stepmother of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens open youth club in bid to rebuild sense of community

The club launched at Nansen Road Baptist Church last June – a year after the 17-year-old’s murder in an adjacent street – in an effort to deter children and young people from falling into crime.

Tavis, who was killed by members of the J-Block gang from the Jubilee Park (renamed Maple Park) area of Ipswich, was friends with members of a rival group known as ‘Neno’ or ‘The Three’ – a reference to the IP3 postcode area of the Nacton estate.

Tavis Spencer-Aitkens' stepmother, Helen Forbes  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNTavis Spencer-Aitkens' stepmother, Helen Forbes Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More: Tavis killers jailed for total of 104 years

His stepmother began training as a youth worker in November, alongside Debbie Dunne and Catherine Head, following the suggestion of Suffolk County Council’s locality officer in Ipswich, Claire Prosser.

“It’s early days, but I’m hoping to take it forward and try to help the youth in all areas,” she said.

“I feel like I know what is needed – and the main thing is engagement. I’ve seen how it can open doors.

“We need to let children know they’re valued, and to give them opportunities to work, earn money and provide for their families in the future.”

Ms Forbes believes the closure of local authority-run youth clubs, and other assets like the Caribbean Club in Woodbridge Road, had a detrimental effect on community cohesion at the beginning of the last decade.

“I think we need more facilities, more engagement, more apprenticeships and ways into work, and more initiatives like the iCard (which gives free access to council sports and leisure facilities in Ipswich),” she added.

“I know some parents struggle. It’s their children, who don’t have things, who are the ones more likely to be targeted to join gangs.

“Not everyone killed Tavis – and those that did are behind bars for a long time.

“What example would I be setting if I didn’t engage with someone who knew them?

“I’d be a hypocrite to say ‘you’re not coming in this youth club’ because you come from another area of Ipswich.

“If I can get through to just one child, it’ll be worth it.

“We won’t do this overnight. We need everyone pulling together.”


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