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Linzi is a Youth Idva, working in South Wales. Communications Officer Ruth caught up with her while she was attending our Expert course in Responding to Young People, to talk about why specialist support for young people is so vital.

Young people are navigating an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing world. Our young people's practitioner training can help you to understand the dynamics of abuse as experienced by young people, including CSE, gang culture and technology.

Ruth: Could you tell me a bit about your role, and how you came into it?

Linzi: Firstly I was working in youth support work, working with young people who were witnessing domestic abuse. Then we got some funding from Children in Need for me to become a Youth Idva, so now I work with 11-18 year olds who are victims in their own relationships – or victims at home from their siblings. So I provide support for them, to help with their emotional wellbeing and safety.

And why do you think it’s important to have specialist youth Idvas?

I think in our organisation we’ve got really strong adult Idva support – the Idvas are all great, but the approach needs to be different with young people. The tools we had were very adult focussed, and we were just missing such a big trick with young people coming into the service. We were getting young people referred to us and then being put into adult groups, and it just wasn’t appropriate for them to be in those settings. As a result they just weren’t moving on properly, they weren’t getting the support they should have been getting really.

Can you think of an example of a time when the specialist support you provided made a difference to a young person experiencing abuse?

There’s one client that jumps out at me; she was referred by her social worker who said ‘there’s some domestic abuse here’. So I went to see her at school and this girl was adamant that there wasn’t any domestic abuse in her relationship. I think perhaps an adult Idva would have gone out there, done a risk assessment and left – because she just wasn’t giving much away at all. But in the youth Idva role we can give more time, to sit down and just explore different avenues other than the abuse itself.

So twelve months down the line, this young person has made the disclosure, she’s got a restraining order against the guy. In that short space of time she’s recognised that it was an abusive relationship and acted on it, and I think it takes a Youth Idva to put that extra time in to explore all the things going on for a young person. Her mum had thrown her out so she was living with the perpetrator and relying on him for everything, so it was a lot to unpick and the Youth Idva role allows you to give that proper support.

Adult services quite often operate a sort of ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule with missing appointments, whereas I’m lucky that I don’t have that – she could turn me down ten times but as long as she sends me a text saying ‘yeah I’ll see you again’ then I’ll see her when she’s ready. It allows us to be a lot more flexible.

So you’ve been on the SafeLives Expert training this week, looking specifically at responding to young people. Do you think the training will make a difference to the support you offer to your clients?

Oh massively. I think it’s so important to be able to link in with other practitioners from across the UK and pick up their tools, but also it’s good to learn about things like gang culture – which isn’t something we’ve really had to deal with yet in the South Wales valleys – it’s good to take that back with me so that if it does come up I’ll be prepared for it. It is always a reactive job, trying to keep up with whatever trend comes next especially in terms of technology, so it’s important to make sure we’re all on the same level.

Do you think having a qualification will make a difference to the way you feel about your work?

Yeah I think it will, for myself but also for other people. I think for other agencies it does carry a lot more weight. I think for schools as well if you’re going in and you can say you’ve got a qualification schools are much happier to let you in!

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