AN inspirational former heroin addict from Kidderminster has launched a work experience initiative with Saatchi & Saatchi for young ex-offenders and marginalised youths.

Mark Johnson’s organisation, User Voice, has kicked off the scheme to try to motivate and encourage young people who might have been excluded from society and to show them an alternative side to life to the one they have experienced.

The first project with London’s Saatchi & Saatchi saw ex-offender, David Brown, 22 and Kidderminster’s Chris Smith, 16, working on the new T-Mobile advertising campaign, Sing-along, that culminated in more than 13,500 people being filmed singing karaoke in Trafalgar Square.

They were included at the sharp end of production, involved in technical “recces” at Trafalgar Square, pre-production meetings with top marketing people from various European countries and creative meetings about the event.

Mr Johnson, who set up User Voice from the proceeds of his biography, Wasted, believed this type of opportunity demonstrated a different and more productive solution to Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw’s, latest initiative of “shaming” offenders. He said: “It's easy to demonise young people with criminal records but Saatchi & Saatchi have chosen to be constructive instead.

“They've shown two excluded and offending young people that there's a world beyond the council estate. For the first time, these lads have been included. They've risen to the challenge and effortlessly demolished any preconceptions that people might have about disadvantaged youngsters.”

Chris said in his diary: “I’ve had the idea of staying on at sixth form, which is something I have never had before but seeing how interesting all these jobs are makes me feel like it’s stupid not to try my hardest and maybe getting one of these jobs someday.”

He added: “My life is so far away from this I can probably say it’s impossible for me to explain or for you to understand.”

Ministry of Justice figures show that within two years of release from prison, 65 per cent re-offend – a figure that rises to 75 per cent among young offenders.

The Home Office also calculates that employment on release from prison reduces the risk of reoffending by between a third and a half.