How we do enable fair access to victims of youth trauma?
One of the cornerstones of helping young people who have experienced trauma is establishing supportive environments and relationships in which they can begin to address their adverse experiences. For the majority of young people who have experienced trauma, there is a lack of trust in adults and services around them, so establishing these environments and these relationships is not only extremely challenging, but extremely important.
The topic of establishing these support tools was discussed at our recent panel event, identifying, assessing and mitigating the impact of child trauma.
One of the issues identified in establishing positive relationships with these young people was the number of case workers that can become involved in their story. “This goes to the heart of the relationship and the view of the young person themselves and their experiences of the different agencies involved in their life,” says Sonia Blandford, CEO at Achievement for All. “I’ve seen cases where there are as many as 12 professionals involved with a young person, each one with a different opinion and a different attitude.
“If we can change the behaviour of the adults we will improve outcomes for the young person. Everyone needs to be singing from the same song sheet. A multitude of approaches is to the detriment of the young person and our overall response to their trauma. Families, too, will kick back against the system as it’s not helping them – we need to reduce the number of people involved with each young person.”
So where, ultimately, should the responsibility lie? “We need corporate visibility of young people in the youth justice pathway,” says Marius Frank, strategic lead for E-learning development and youth justice at Achievement for All. “There have been huge changes in outcomes for looked after children when the responsibility for them has been moved to local authorities. If responsibility lies in one place, we reduce the risk of fragmentation of information on these children.”
This is a point that Alex Chard, director at YCTS, agrees with. “It is intentional that school records are kept separately,” he says. “Records should be joined up, but there are obstacles to achieving this, not least the fact that there are a number of young people known across different systems and this isn’t being recognised, which is creating more risk.
“We need to look at families and inter-generational trauma. We gain a different level of empathy when we care to understand a young person’s history.”
Understanding, therefore, is central to enabling fair access for these young people and establishing positive environments and relationships with them. “Young people who are ‘difficult to like’ consistently experience rejection,” adds Shaun Brown, programme director at The Difference. “We are conditioned as human beings to reject experiences that cause us discomfort, which goes some way to explaining why these young people are the way they are.
“Building and sustaining relationships with these young people has to be front and centre of our response and we need to monitor what this achieves within our institutions. This needs to be achieved through the layers of the system.”
Establishing relationships with trauma affected young people can be extremely challenging but understanding where our response to it has gone awry can help to put in place in effective building blocks for improving outcomes going forward. A unified system response, with a consistent approach from the professionals involved, will go a long way to ensuring fair access to supportive environments and relationships for these young people.