In conversation with Louise Kay
It’s fair to say that Louise Kay made the most of her time at UCEN Manchester. After first enrolling in 2018, she completed the Fda Criminology and Criminal Justice course, before progressing to the BA Honours (Top-Up) Criminology and Criminal Justice.
This year, after being nominated in the ‘Most Inspiring’ category at the Student Awards 2021, Louise graduated with First Class honours and has now progressed to study a Master’s degree.
A large reason for Louise’s ‘First’ was her dissertation, titled The Criminal Exploitation of Young People Through County Lines and Criminal Justice Responses. It was such an impressive piece of work, that it’s now been published by the Internet Journal of Criminology.
We spoke to Louise about the inspiration behind her dissertation, her time at UCEN Manchester and her future career goals.
How does it feel to have your dissertation published by the Internet Journal of Criminology?
When I wrote the dissertation, I remember thinking: ‘I hope it is good enough!’ Never in a million years did I ever consider the possibility of it being of publishing standard. I feel really proud. However, although I wrote it, I really do need to credit my dissertation supervisor for all her help, support and belief in me.
What is your dissertation about and what was the inspiration behind it?
During the second year of my degree, we had to complete a practice-based research project. I chose to do mine on Youth Justice and Restorative Practices. In much the same way as the final dissertation, I interviewed a range of professionals including a Manager for Residential Home for Looked After Children. During the interview he explained the biggest problem he was experiencing with young people in his care was the criminal exploitation through county lines which was all facilitated by the advent of social media and availability of mobile technology.
When I decided to do some research into county lines, I discovered that there was very little by means of academic research into the subject, and I wanted to know more, therefore, this was the inspiration to research The Criminal Exploitation of Young People Through County Lines and Criminal Justice Responses.
The dissertation looks at how the criminal exploitation of young people by organised criminal gangs’ manifests within the drug supply model known as county lines. It evaluates whether there are any vulnerabilities that make a young person more suspectable to being exploited, and finally looks at the responses.
How did you find the process of researching and writing your dissertation?
I found the whole process really enjoyable. It was a lot of hard work, and there was an awful lot of hours reading and researching. Although Covid-19 hit hard in terms of losing face-to-face teaching, it actually made the process of interviewing research participants much easier. Had Covid-19 not caused lockdowns, in all honesty I probably would not have looked so far geographically for research participants. In total, and because of Microsoft Teams and Zoom, I managed to interview a diverse range of professionals from both exporting and importing counties across the country.
What made you choose to study at UCEN Manchester?
I studied a Level 3 qualification ten years ago and I had a really good experience with that. I also was acutely aware of the fact that I am a mature learner and the thought of going into a lecture theatre with people considerably younger than myself filled me with dread. I was also really aware that I had left school thirty years ago and whilst I had, during my career, been required to compile reports, it was an awful long time since I had written an essay. I did question whether I was going to be able to do it.
However, I remember coming to the UCEN Manchester open day prior to commencing my studies in 2018 and met Angela Tobin (Lecturer in Criminology and Social Justice). She explained how the course operated, the content, and how the smaller class sizes enabled a greater degree of support. She really did put me at ease.
What was your background before coming to study your degree?
Prior to my degree I initially worked as an SQL Database Administrator and Network Administrator with a large international PLC. However, I took redundancy in 2005 and gave birth to my youngest child. In 2012, I returned to work as a Checkouts and Service Manager for a supermarket chain.
How did your tutors support you during your studies?
The tutors are fantastic. They go above and beyond in everything they do. Before submission of assignments they take the time to read through drafts and provide constructive feedback. They really do want you to be the best you can be.
I went to high school during the 1980’s and during that period there was a lot of unrest with teachers strikes. Back then we thought it was great as we were constantly sent home from school and its only as you get older that you realise how much it impacted your education. I have said on numerous occasions to Angela Tobin that I only wish I had encountered a teacher with her drive, passion and enthusiasm during my high school years. If I had, maybe I would have achieved this a lot sooner.
What are you planning to do upon completion of your studies?
I currently work part-time as a Restorative Justice Practitioner with a Local Authority Youth Justice Service and I have also progressed to study full-time at Manchester Metropolitan University for a Master’s degree in Applied Criminology, where my intention is to expand my current research. Following the end of the MA, hopefully I will be looking again to further expand the research and complete a PhD.
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I hope my long-term career aspirations lie with working with young people who have been criminally exploited, in either a preventative or recovery capacity.