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OUR STORY

Andy & Matt Smith are brothers who were placed into the care system by social services after neglectful parenting from their biological mother and father.

They then were abused by the very people they were placed with by social services who they had hoped would be their loving new mum and dad between the years of 1990-1998.

After years of having to deal with the effects of their traumatic abuse the Smith brothers have turned their lives around and gone onto to have great success at university, employment, in various sporting teams, numerous music projects and in life.

Before all this success however life wasn’t all plane sailing, with both brothers experiencing lots of pent up anger, low self esteem, feelings of loneliness and

suicidal thoughts originating from the abuse they had suffered during their childhood.  Abuse that was never picked up by professionals.

Abuse that was hidden by both the brothers and cleverly by the people who carried it out. What were the lessons and what could have professionals done better to spot the signs earlier on?

This culminated in brushes with the law, failed relationships, huge debt, violence, anxiety, depression, OCD and also impacted on the brothers own sibling relationship.

How did they find the resilience to turn such a negative experience in those early formative years to become the men they are today?

What has made them want to dedicate their working lives to be the positive role models for other young people and families?

Offering their own inspirational talks to young people, professionals and organisations the brothers are able to give a unique insight of a real life lived within the care system as well as from a professional standpoint having had over 35 years professional experience working with young people and families between them.

Touching on the hard lessons they have learnt, they now want to pass onto young people and others wanting to make a real difference.

Smash Life is an organisation founded by the brothers to offer mentoring, group work, consultancy , training and inspirational talks to young people, professionals and organizations.

Smash Life believe that despite what life may throw at you, you can turn your negatives into a positive and aspire to be the person you want to be – smashing life.

Smash Life – Overcoming life’s hurdles together.

Who Are We?

Philosophy We Strive For

Andy & Matt Smith are brothers who were placed into the care system by social services after neglectful parenting from their biological mother and father.

In our experience many young people often ask professionals “What do you know?” this is where our service differs from others as we have lived a life within the care system and without a mum and dad for the majority of our lives.

Combined with our professional experience and qualifications we are able to offer that shared life experience and offer advice and guidance based on real life and not just from a text book. We find this resonates with young people because we as adults are able to open up to them they in turn open up to us.

Smash Life is also creative on its approach to mentoring and getting young people to open up. It is limiting to just sit in a room and ask a young person to just “talk about it” and this can be oppressive for some young people.

By bringing sport, music, games, walks, and trips to the Mentoring we have found they create better results and the young people actually enjoy and look forwards to the sessions.

Skills We Teach

Communication 100%
One to One engagement 100%
How to deal with trauma 100%
Gaining a Positive Outcome 100%
Building Resilience 100%
Exploring Solutions to Problems 100%
Identifying Positive Activities 100%

Team Members

Andy Smith

Managing Director of Smash Life.

Andy realised he had a passion to engage children and young people and started working with young people as a play leader in the summer of 2000. During this time Andy had moved in with supportive lodgings carers and was studying for a BTEC in Sports Science at Shrewsbury College of Arts And Technology. Andy quickly established the importance of hard work and also had two other jobs at college working at a local restaurant as a kitchen porter and at Perfect Pizza.

Following the completion of his college course Andy Moved to Chester University to study Sports Science. Andy admits the University lifestyle and his avoidance, lack of support from the trauma he suffered as a child in care led him onto a path of self destruction. Andy failed his first year at University, but enrolled onto a Geography degree. This is where Andy flourished and realised he could not be a victim of his past and graduated with a 2:2 BA hons degree in 2006.

Following the completion of his degree and bringing an end to four years living in Chester Andy secured a job as “Support and Guidance worker” working for the Leaving Care Team at Shropshire County Council. This was where Andy would really shape his skills and enhance his desire to work with the most vulnerable young people in the community.  Andy felt that this job gave him a sense of purpose and that the young people he supported were inspired by his journey in care and positive approach. During this role Andy was also successful in landing an internship as an advisor for the Associate Parliament Group for looked After Children offering advice around policy and change for young people as well as championing the Young Persons voice.

Andy has since worked for local councils, and the NHS leading and supporting various health projects targeting at enhancing the wellbeing of children, young people and adults. Andy particually enjoyed working on a project called Telford Green Gym where he worked on a day to day basis introducing adults to exercising in green spaces enhancing their community as well as their own wellbeing. Andy admits this also had a positive effect on his own wellbeing working in a calm and therapeutic environment.

Andy then ran a project in a community in Telford, being a positive role model as a community Development Worker in a community that had been rocked by CSE and ASB. Andy found this is where he came into his own, working with different age groups, cultures and learning how to effectively educate, inspire and bring people together promoting community cohesion.

For the past 14 years Andy has worked extensively with vulnerable young people and adults, managed staff and volunteers and has recently joined forces with his brother Matt to form Smash Life utilising both their personal and professional experiences to inform, educate and inspire young people and fellow professionals through shared life mentoring, talks, training, group work and consultancy.

Andy has always maintained that working directly with young people, his love of sport, football and living a healthy lifestyle with a positive attitude has been the main constant in his life and something that acts as a form of therapy. Through Andy’s love of sport and exercise and Matt’s love of Music, Smash life are able to offer vulnerable young people a positive diversion.

In 2019 Andy alongside his brother Matt won the Shrewsbury Town Council Mayors Award for ‘making a difference to young people’ as part of Smash Life’s outstanding work within the area.

Matt Smith

Director of Smash Life.

Matt started working with young people as a playleader for Shropshire Council in the summer of 2000. Matt then went onto achieve a 2:1 BA honours degree at Leicester De Montfort University in Youth & Community Development. Whilst at university and as part of his course Matt worked in a community project supporting adults with mental health illness’s and then at Leicester YMCA within a Lifeskills project. During this second placement Matt was offered a job at Leicester YMCA working as part of the community education division with NEET young people aged 16 -25 years of age within a hostel setting. Matt was nominated and won a ‘Making a Difference’ award by the very young people he worked alongside during this time.

Matt then successfully secured a job back at Shropshire Council and was employed as a youth worker managing various youth clubs and projects in schools within the Shrewsbury area. Matt also worked as a drugs and alcohol educator for the charity Choices, where he went and spoke/delivered workshops in many schools, colleges, youth clubs to young people and adults about drugs and alcohol.

Matt has also supported The Care Council Crew in Shrewsbury, a project set up to listen and advocate for the voices of young people within the care system as well as facilitating various trips and award evenings. Matt has also been commissioned to carry out research on young people’s views and opinions on growing up in the care system and the service they have received. Matt was then moved into a role during the economic recession to one of a Targeted Youth Worker within the Early Help Safeguarding Team, working with young people and families with complex needs from 2011 -2019.

In 2019 Matt alongside his brother Andy won the Shrewsbury Town Council Mayors Award for ‘making a difference to young people’ as part of Smash Life’s outstanding work within the area.

For the past fourteen years Matt has also managed various event party bands and has gigged extensively throughout the UK and abroad at various corporate and private occasions. In 2019 Matt’s current band Sonic Boom won ‘The Best Wedding Band in the West Midlands’ by Event Entertainment.

In 2012 Matt released his first solo EP of his own original music under his musical persona ‘Sonnetsmith’.

Feedback

Reactions from some of our recent clients!

Thank you for coming along and sharing your story with us all. Such a heartfelt speech that moved everyone in the room, and lots of really important information to take away.”

“Just had the most inspirational speech from these lads. Absolutely amazing and they should be very proud of themselves and their achievements”

Matthew William, Care Home Manager - Keys Group

“Incredible. Thank you for sharing your story and advice”

Christine Dunn, Professional

“These remarkable brothers suffered long term abuse, humiliation, degradation and shame at the hands of those entrusted with their care. Their life story is one of courage, resilience and determination.. Their promise to use yesterday and their commitment to each other today, is to be the change for children that they should have experienced. If you are looking for conference speakers, mentors for your children these chaps are going to be booked up very quickly after being invited for by the consortium for therapeutic communities to their first conference debut yesterday.”

Sarah Morgan, Specialist Advisor, Education and Childrens Social Care

“It was really good, he was really cool and I enjoyed the talk because Matt was funny, down to earth and really relatable, not like some teachers who just talk down to you”.

Pupil, Charlton Secondary School Telford

“Having heard Andy and Matt speak I was able to relate many of the things they said to me and to the young people I work with and could only hope the young people that I work with develop a tiny bit of insight that Andy and Matt have. Their talk and shared experiences show that young people do not need to be a victim of their past and hearing this first hand can only strengthen this belief with the young people they work with. The motivation, humour, honesty and frankness of the talk is moving and exhilarating. I felt a roller coaster of emotions listening but felt even more motivated to support the young people I work with. Since meeting Andy and Matt I have spoken to young people about them – shared their messages and views. Their words have stayed with me and I can relate their experiences to many different situations I come across in my role. I thought I knew a lot “looked after children” , care leavers, the system – but learnt more from this talk than any other course, training or from books.”

Kathryn Packer, Education Liaison Officer

“I was lucky to hear Andy and Matt present earlier this year and their story must be one that has resonated with me the most. Ever. It has informed our practice at Sandcastle Care and we now weave our therapeutic web into colleges and schools offering trauma informed care training even further. Thank you Andy. Thank you Matt.”

Helen Barton , Head of Therapeutic Services at Sandcastle Care

“Andy has a fresh delivery style to bring home the stark reality of young people in crisis and dwelling on his past experiences he provides many ideas on helping young people to get on the right path to make the best life choices they can. He is an inspiration to young people everywhere who are daunted by the challenges life brings them.”

Helen Ball , Shrewsbury Town Council Clerk

“What a breakthrough……he has told you more than he would’ve shared with carers or me on the first meeting”

Social Worker, Shropshire Council

Andy has provided our most vulnerable students with support that they would not be able to access within school. His unique perspective on the issue experienced by LAC has enabled our students to feel secure, in particular during the stressful exam season. This is an excellent example of use of pupil premium funding.”

Teacher, Holy Trinity School - Telford

“…really looks forward to her sessions which is such a transformation – when ….has something to think about ….opens up with us here which is such a relief and …also feels reassured about things on her mind knowing ….can talk it over with Matt”

Parent, Mentoring Client

“Andy and Matt give so much to those they work with, they really are an inspiration to so many. Being able to relate to the young people they mentor through their shared life experiences gives the young people someone they can connect with openly. I would highly recommend Smash Life.”

Natalie Prudence, Elite Dance Studios

“A big thank you for helping so far on this absolute monumental journey I’ve been on: Anger, Emotions, and Positive vibes so again thank you so much”

Young Person, Mentee

“ Since I have seen you I am not arguing with the teachers, its good to know someone has been there and understands.”

Young Person, Mentee

“I just want to say a massive thank you to Andy for the support I have been given. I can always know that no matter what mood I am in I will always come out of the session smiling. More people should be like this looking out for others.”

Young Person, Mentee

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