Posted: Wednesday 16th November 2016
During the summer I spent the day with the Young Victims Service who provide support to children and young people who have been victims of crime across Avon and Somerset. As part of my role in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) I oversee this service, looking at performance reports and discussing outcomes with the service managers. There is only so much you can learn from looking at a report, so I decided to visit the team and see how things really work in practice.
I started my day by joining the team of advocates for their team meeting. There are four advocates in the team; Amy, Rory, Suzie and Monica. Unfortunately Monica couldn’t join us at the meeting, but myself, Amy, Rory and Susie started discussing recent referrals and the current cases which the team were working to support. The advocates all come from different professional backgrounds including teaching, youth work and social care. For me that was one of the very obvious strengths of the team.
The different skills in the room were all put to excellent use when discussing cases and considering what type of approach might work best for individual young people. The service works with children from around the age of 8 right up to 18 (25 if additional needs are identified) and as I’m sure you can imagine, the approach needed to work with a child of 10 is completely different to that needed to work with a 17 year old. The team seemed to take this completely in their stride, taking a victim centred approach to each case and working out what was best for the young person involved.
After the team meeting, Amy invited me to join her on a home visit. She shared some information with me about the case and explained that it would be the first time she had met the young person so would be spending the visit trying to get to know them, putting them at ease and exploring what type of support might be useful. Before we set off, Amy showed me a new tool she’d developed which she was going to use for the first time to help break the ice. I was very intrigued as to how it would work.
When we arrived at the house, we introduced ourselves to the young person. They seemed a little nervous at first- as I’m sure I would be having strangers in my home to talk about my experience as a victim of crime- but Amy quickly put her at ease by introducing her new tool; a game of Jenga! We all took part so that we could all get to know each other. Each piece had a question on it that we all had to answer. They ranged from simple questions such as ‘what is your favourite food’ to the more searching such as ‘I feel scared when…?’. Playing the game helped everyone to relax; we all laughed at some of our answers, had moments of introspection as we considered some of the more difficult questions and most importantly we all formed a bond through sharing information about ourselves.
As the game developed, we started to learn a bit more about the young person’s experience as a victim of crime and I watched as Amy skilfully started to tease out what might be a useful way forward in offering support. As the visit drew to a close, Amy agreed with the young person and their mother how often she would be in contact and what they might like to do next in terms of support. It was really apparent the difference Amy had made, even in that first meeting, to the young person.
I’m really grateful to the team for letting me spend the day with them and very thankful to the young person and their mother for letting me join them in what must have been a difficult and personal session. Spending the day with the team gave me a hugely valuable insight into the work that they do, and seeing first-hand the support which they provide to young victims has made me realise the human impact behind the performance reports.
If you would like to find out more about the work of the Young Victims Service or would like to make a referral, please visit the website for further details https://youngvictims.wordpress.com/
Senior Commissioning and Policy Officer
Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner