duncan roberts

Duncan’s journey to the House of Lords

A mature student who spent periods of his past life homeless and getting into scrapes with the police, this week visited the House of Lords to receive a prestigious national award from the Helena Kennedy Foundation.

Duncan Roberts, 37, who has now started the first year of a Foundation Degree in Automotive Engineering at Somerset College, Taunton, was bowled over when he heard he had won the award.

He visited the House of Lords to receive the award from the President of the Foundation, Baroness Kennedy of the the Shaws QC, a member of the House of Lords and one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers.

“They made me feel so welcome, I felt like royalty. We even had a proper English afternoon tea there afterwards,” said Duncan, who attended the event with his partner Jayne.

The Helena Kennedy Foundation awards are given to help students from the further education sector who have overcome significant obstacles, both financial and personal, to complete their further education and support them in their progression to Higher Education. They provide financial help as well as personal and practical support and opportunities. 

“I’m a bad boy gone good. I was a very troubled teenager, in scrapes with the police. I went off the rails and later worked as a builder’s labourer, with no future, “ said Duncan.

“My life changed five years ago when my son Thomas came along. I had a burger van but my business folded with the recession. I loved cars so I decided to go back to college and retrain.”

Automotive Lecturer Joe Davies was impressed from the start. “You could see he was destined to change what was happening in his life and he just achieved at everything. Within weeks he was also a father figure to the group; some of the students have social issues going on and his life experiences help.”

Duncan did so well not only did his tutors nominate him for the Helena Kennedy Award, they also offered him teaching work for youngsters on the Automotive Maintenance and Repair course.

He’s thrilled with his teaching role and hopes one day to work with disadvantaged youngsters and young offenders. “I want to ignite some of that passion in students and youngsters, make them see that they will make fantastic mechanics and engineers, and make them see no matter how bad life is, you can turn it around.”

And no-one is prouder than Duncan’s partner Jayne, his partner’s son Jake, 15, Thomas, 5, and his parents, who he praised for standing by him in spite of the difficult times.

Caption: Duncan with his Award certificate.