24th October 2008 at 01:00

Being a youth worker for disaffected teenagers in a tough part of London can't be easy. But James Cook has the advantage of being a 6ft 2in former champion boxer.

A major report into teenage disaffection last week included a powerful tribute to his dedication.

Since the end of his boxing career, Mr Cook has spent his days pounding the streets of Hackney, east London, hoping to persuade young people to reject street crime and turn to education and jobs.

The former European and British super-middleweight champion, who combines working for the Rathbone youth charity with training professional boxers, earns automatic respect from the young people he meets, said the report. Which is perhaps unsurprising.

But he is frustrated at the lack of long-term funding for projects that might reach some of education's most challenging potential recruits.

The Engaging Youth Inquiry report said: "His charisma and popularity can't disguise the fact that, for many of these young people, the situation appears hopeless. There is drug use, gang warfare, poverty, difficulty in accessing housing, reluctance on the part of employers to take on young people with that address, and a sense of fatalism."

As the findings of the report were presented to a House of Commons meeting last week, Mr Cook told The TES: "Funding for these projects is three months, or six months. Everything is short term. We need long-term support."

We wish him luck.

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