Victim Support Workers Reflect on Helping Young People Cope with the Impact and Effects of Crime
On the occasion of 1st of June – The International Day for Protection of Children, we asked some of our veteran victim support organisations from Sweden, Scotland and England, professionals who have spent years helping child victims, to reflect on their experience in supporting young people cope with the impact and effects of crime, and what they do to assist children – victims of Covid-19 lockdown.
Read on to find out more.
Part 3 by Victim Support England and Wales:
“The goal of our practitioners is to help children process the feelings that they may be having, so that they can build resilience and move forwards.”
In many ways, the work that ‘Victim Support England and Wales’ has done during lockdown is the same that it always has been. We support children and young people who have experienced crime, whether it is burglary, bullying or living in a household where there is domestic abuse. The goal of our practitioners is to help children process the feelings that they may be having; anger, anxiety or loss of confidence, so that they can build resilience and move forwards.
That said, the last few months have undoubtedly had a significant impact on the way that we are able to work with children. Not being able to meet in person has been difficult – practitioners often use craft activities and games to communicate and encourage children to open up. But our practitioners have adapted to the restrictions amazingly, continuing to build relationships over the phone and occasionally skype – interestingly, most children prefer the phone as it’s less direct than a face to face video call.
There has also been a focus on upskilling parents by sending boxes (‘a caseworker in a box’), with everything they need for craft activities. This works alongside phone coaching sessions with parents on simple activities that reveal whether a child is having a good or a bad day. One mother and son who fled from an abusive partner before lockdown have actually found this time to be a big part of their recovery journey. The child had been angry at his mother for moving away despite his father being the perpetrator. Through support from their practitioner, and the extra time spent together, they have had a lovely time camping in the garden and building their relationship again.
But clearly lockdown has also sadly amplified the fact that children and young people are often hidden. It is most often a professional such as a teacher that raises the alarm that results in a referral to us – most adults don’t want to get involved. Schools being shut has reduced referrals and we expect a big increase when life goes back to normal.
Our practitioners have also been extremely worried about some of the more vulnerable children they support, particularly where there is no safe adult to work with. Although such children are still technically able to go to school during lockdown, several parents have refused to send them, some using unsubstantiated claims of underlying health conditions as an explanation. When the children are too young to speak to over the phone to our practitioners, this lack of contact is a very hard situation.
We know that the support given to children and young people can make all the difference in their lives now and the future. A new proposed Domestic Abuse Bill is currently in Parliament awaiting discussion and voting on specific elements. We want this bill to recognise children as victims of domestic abuse; they are currently seen as witnesses. The change in status would help direct money to provide the services that we know are needed – the pandemic has only highlighted this further.
Ben Donagh, CYP Team Manager
Tanya Faithful, CYP Caseworker