Thursday, 25 July 2013

Working with vulnerable young people

Children and young people face many challenges, anxieties and uncertainties around who they are, their relationships and what the future holds.  These stresses are amplified if they feel alone, unsupported, or if they experience some kind of trauma or mental health problem  - those that don’t get help may go on to become vulnerable adults.

It is understandable that things can get ‘too much’ and some choose to run away from home or care. They can feel like they have no other way out, but then they may discover they have nowhere else to go, they may be reported missing and find that their issues can travel with them. Unfortunately, others might be forced to leave home.

When offering support, there is a fine line between helping someone and creating dependency. It is important to be there, to listen, to care and to fully explore their thoughts and feelings, so that we can try to understand what they are going through.  We try to give sound advice so that they may be better able to find ways to help themselves cope with their situation. We must also remember it is sometimes not possible to ‘fix’ their problems.

Young people sometimes choose to access our service via text message, as this may feel less daunting if they do not want to reveal too much of themselves. It also gives them the time and space to consider what they would like to say and respond to our messages – they are not put on the spot with any questions. In turn, it gives call takers a chance to reflect on what they are presented with, to manage any safeguarding concerns and ensure we are providing a consistent approach. 

A child under 16 has been contacting us via text for some time. They send multiple messages and usually reply instantly to the messages we send back. They told us they had been thinking about running away because they’re always arguing with their mum. When asked if they felt safe at home they replied ‘yes’,  but went on to say that their mum hits them and has punched them a few times in the past. This is what then led them to running away. 

The child also explained that they felt shy and embarrassed talking to teachers, but that they don’t mind speaking to someone they probably wouldn’t speak to again. 

We explored the situation further, and were able to offer a referral to Social Services. Even though suggestions were not taken up in this instance, decisions are always placed with the caller unless they or someone else is believed to be at serious risk of harm and we continue to offer emotional support and be someone they can talk to in confidence. 

There are many organisations which have different areas of expertise and can offer advice, support and information that is relevant and appropriate to a person’s needs.  We draw on these where we need to, and continue to be there for as long as a person feels they would like our help. Months can sometimes go by between some of our callers re-engaging, but our lines are always open to them, 24 hours, any time they need to call.

By Dana Acharya
Missing People Services Supervisor

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