More than 150 vulnerable young people have been given access to increased support, thanks to a new youth work project based in Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital.
Since July 2019, Essex County Council youth workers have been working alongside doctors and nurses at the hospital to identify and support young people who are presenting with various needs. Essex Youth Service has a dedicated team who are available six days a week to speak to young people attending hospital injured or in crisis.
The project has so far received £150,000 funding as part of the Violence and Vulnerability Programme established by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and partners across Essex, including Essex County Council (ECC). The programme funds projects to reduce the risk of vulnerable young people being groomed into a life of crime and help those affected by gangs to take the steps to leave.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “This work will help some of our most vulnerable young people. By integrating youth workers within a hospital setting, young people can access services that they may not know about, or do not have the confidence to access on their own.
“We recognise the importance of ensuring the right interventions are in place to support young people at the right time, particularly when those who may already be vulnerable or at risk. The ‘right time’ is before they reach crisis point and why we’ve made a commitment and allocated £500,000 to tackling the issues of exploitation and gang violence, with a focus on prevention and early intervention.
“We want to empower young people, help them to thrive and reduce the potential for them to become at risk in the first place. Through true partnership working, young people will benefit from a range of expertise and the need for significant intervention later in their life will decrease.”
Glenn Crickmore, Senior Youth and Community Commissioner for South Essex, said: “We have placed experienced youth workers within the hospital to work with young people who are victims of youth violence or have mental health issues which could make them vulnerable.
“Some young people who need additional support will be referred to the targeted youth adviser team within our service or onto another specialist service such as youth clubs we support, boxing clubs or a music programme.
“Alternatively, they could be referred for one-to-one support with our hospital youth work team or other specialist services, for example Social Care, the mental health team or specialist gang workers. Each individual case is assessed to find the right pathway to meet the young person’s individual needs.”
For some, the issues young people present with at A&E could be just the tip of the iceberg and through further engagement with youth service teams, more serious issues, such as involvement in criminal exploitation can become apparent.
Rengarajan Subramanian, paediatric emergency medicine lead at Basildon Hospital, said: “It’s been incredibly rewarding being a part of this programme. As nurses and doctors caring and listening is what we do. It’s a natural fit for us to work alongside the youth workers and identify young patients who may need their support.
“The results speak for themselves. Out of the 150 young people who have accessed the service 73 per cent have signed up for further help once discharged from hospital. We know of at least two young people who are no longer in gangs due to the support they have received. It’s such a privilege to be a part this initiative and do our part to support the young people in our local community.”
The success of the pilot project is being measured a variety of ways, including the number of young people presenting at A&E, their outcomes; their destinations; and if regular users of A&E are reducing their presentation.
The project is also having an educational impact. Glenn added: “We are able to share our knowledge of the local area and the issues that are affecting young people with the doctors and nurses, so they have greater understanding of subjects, such as, LGBTQ+, grooming and gangs and where to signpost those in need.
“As youth workers, our expertise is building lasting relationships with young people. We can ask the questions others – including hospital staff – may not feel comfortable or have the capacity to ask. “
Feedback from the young people involved has so far been very positive with one saying; “Having someone to talk to and not get judged and to know that there is never a stupid question here and the amount of support, it’s amazing and really comforting”.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Protecting children and vulnerable people from harm is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan. By investing in programmes that work in hospitals, within families and with partners across the county we are reaching out and tackling the root causes of gang activity while also robustly dealing with those who commit offences.”
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