Project tackling knife crime and serious violence in Sussex wins national award
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The Hospital Youth Work Project offers support to young people who attend hospital having possibly experienced violence, victimhood, or criminal exploitation, and who may have attended A&E more than once.
They can then be referred to additional services that promote a positive lifestyle, such as refuges, housing services and substance misuse services.
The early interventions mean vulnerable young people can be quickly identified and helped at a ‘reachable and teachable moment’ – the point when additional support is most likely to be successful.
The project, which is running in the Emergency Department (ED) at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, scooped the Safeguarding Award in the 2023 Children & Young People (CYP) Now Awards at a ceremony in The Hurlingham Club in London on Thursday (23 November).
The Hospital Youth Work Project began in April 2022 and has already helped around 400 vulnerable children and young people to get the support they need at an early stage.
It is delivered by the Trust for Developing Communities (TDC) with funding from the Sussex Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP), a partner of Sussex Police, and Rockinghorse Children’s Charity based in Brighton.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Yates, force lead for knife crime and serious violence, said: “I think the project is absolutely fantastic.
“What we've seen around knife crime and serious violence is that if they're coming here [the hospital] with tragic injuries and it is likely they will become either an offender or a victim again within the next year.
“People don’t always want to speak to police officers, which is why we need this partnership approach. Young people will open up to the youth workers – it's a different level of engagement.”
The project is delivered by two hospital youth workers, Sean Older and Roman Waters.
Sean, who has been in youth work for 18 years, said: “We get told by young people that we are approachable and they want to talk to us and share things with us. They feel safe and like they can talk freely.
“Some who we have supported in the last 18 months now have jobs and are not involved with crime. Parents have also come back saying, ‘Your interaction with my young person has really changed them’.”
Roman added: “Being based right where young people come into the hospital when they are at crisis point means I am in a position to help them straight away."
Dr Oli Rahman, a Paediatric Consultant at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and a Rockinghorse trustee, said staff have seen a change in what comes through the front doors of the ED.
He said: “Before, we were managing more traditional things you would see in a children’s ED, such as pneumonia, asthma, broken bones.
“What we’ve noticed, particularly in the last five years, is there are more and more teenagers and young people presenting with psychological issues, mental health problems, or eating disorders, and we were struggling to cope with the demand.
“Doctors and nurses now feel like they are doing something more than patching them up and sending them away.”