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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK
Get into fishing and out of trouble
By Alison Freeman
BBC News, London

James White-Doyle teaching fishing
The scheme can be an incentive for good behaviour
It is mid morning on a school day, but instead of sitting in a classroom, a group of teenagers is on the edge of a lake.

That is because some of them do not go to school and others struggle in class or simply need more one-on-one support.

They have been sent to join a scheme called Get Hooked On Fishing, which aims to keep children out of crime by giving them something else on which to focus.

The sessions run throughout the UK, but this group in Darenth is run by the charity Groundwork Kent and Medway.

One of the angling programme's star pupils is 14-year-old Lenny. He currently does not have a school place.

I'd definitely be in trouble if I wasn't here
Lenny, 14

He has a clear take on what he gets out of going fishing at this lake, just a stone's throw away from the M25.

"I'd be sitting indoors on my bum doing nothing," he said.

"It's good here, I do like it, it gets me out of the house.

"I'd definitely be in trouble if I wasn't here - all the time.

"Probably be going out, causing people grief, winding them up, chucking things at their windows and that. Being a little pain in the backside really."

James White-Doyle is employed by the Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC) in Gravesend and joins some of the youths he works with at the fishing lake.

'Talk about life'

He explained some of the youngsters were at risk of becoming criminals or had already broken the law, possibly dealing in drugs.

Others may be troubled by drug abuse or mental illness which can cause them to harm themselves or others. Many are from deprived backgrounds.

If the teenagers who attend have a school place, they may be let off the timetable for the angling sessions as an incentive for good behaviour.

"First and foremost, it's an environment where you can engage and 'key work' can take place," he explained.

"For example, the young people that you bring to the bank here possibly wouldn't be able to sit in school for a day.

"But they will sit here on a box for six hours and it's a great time to engage with them - talk about their life, how they're doing and set goals and achievements."

The course aims to keep youngsters out of trouble

But it is not just about doing something positive and learning a hobby - the nature of fishing, according to Mr White-Doyle, also rubs off on them.

"It's relaxing for them," he said. "They manage to grow their patience for one, and respond to the environment around them.

"Everyday seems to be different so it's constantly changing and they learn to adapt."

While I'm with the group, one teenager Robert, lands a 9lb mirror carp - much to his own astonishment and that of the instructors.

In no uncertain terms, he says it makes him feel good and it is easy to see why when he is grappling with the whopper.

Funding needed

A quick photo and the fish is sent back to the water for someone else to try to catch.

Lenny's fishing skills are advancing and the instructors hope he will go on to take some coaching qualifications so he can teach other youngsters how to fish.

This also means potential for paid work and therefore much improved job prospects.

The scheme needs more money, volunteers and coaches to keep going and to expand.

The lake on the other hand, as the bobbing rods prove, is well stocked.

Organisers say the scheme has been a success

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