Former young offender credits charity using horse therapy for saving his life

  • Watch Annie Knowlson's report

A former young offender has thanked a charity that uses equine therapy for helping to save his life.

Key4Life helps prison inmates and people from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve their resilience and get employed through its seven-step programme.

Liam Meredith was facing six years in prison for a violent offence at the age of 18.

He said: "Before I went to jail I was 16 years old taking class As and I was getting drug induced psychosis.

"My mum broke down because she thought I was going to die and I thought I was.

"When I was up for 11 days I went out to the park bench and I just prayed to god, 'please let me live and I’ll make everything alright, please just give me a chance.'"

Once Liam was sent to prison he met people from Key4Life and didn't look back.

Liam now runs his own business and works with the charity to help other young people. He say prisoners need to know how to break the cycle and avoid a life of crime.

He said: "I know, a lot of them, they only need that one chance. Don't get me wrong it ain't easy but if the stars align and someone like Key4Life's ready for them then they never look back."

The charity started in 2012 and has so far helped around 800 people and reached out to more than 5000 through schools and community work.

It uses different methods like equine therapy where inmates write down what they want to achieve in the future.

These are then tied to horses who run around and "release" these wishes in the hope they'll come true.

Miles (second from the left) is currently being helped into work through Key4Life

Miles Leslie was living in a hostel after developing a drinking problem but has now got a new place to live and is hoping to start work at a building company.

He says the charity has changed his attitude towards life, saying: "It feels great like I’ve got my motivation back in myself to get up early in the morning.

"Thinking I don’t want to be sat around playing playstation, I want to be out there working."

Mile wrote down 'happiness' on his ribbon as what he wants to achieve.

He explained why, saying: "I believe the only thing you should have is happiness and it’s something you can’t buy but something we should all have for a positive future."

Key4Life's reoffending rate is a maximum of 14% compared to a national average of 64%.

A minimum of 60% of the charity's graduates are gainfully employed, versus a national average of 15%, leading to big prison providers across the country are hoping to role out the scheme.

Despite this Eva Hamilton MBE, who started the charity, says more action needs to be taken to get more businesses on board.

Eva said: "Many companies don’t want to touch somebody because they’ve been an offender. If you’ve got a criminal conviction, you’re completely wiped off.

"Most people think prisoners wouldn’t have dreams, they don’t want to change. They absolutely want to change. We have an untapped pool of talent sitting here that’s not being tapped into by corporate Britain."