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Domestic abuse can affect people of any age and background, and supporting young people experiencing domestic abuse brings a unique set of challenges. That’s why at SafeLives we run a training course specifically designed for professionals working with young people. Helena Cartlidge completed our Responding to Young People training course in February 2016, and SafeLives Communications Officer Ruth caught up with her to find out how it’s making a difference to her practice.

Ruth: Hi Helena, thank you for speaking with me. Could you start by telling me a bit about your background?

Helena: I worked for a domestic abuse team in Stoke-on-Trent, taking on various roles: working in a refuge as children's worker, delivering the Freedom programme to victims and the recovery toolkit and community outreach support. Mostly I was a one to one support worker with children and young people from 11-19 who had witnessed domestic abuse.

When the legal definition of domestic abuse changed to lower the age to 16, there was a gap in our service for young people in their own abusive relationships – which is why I decided to take SafeLives young people training.  

What were the main things you took away from the training, and how is it helping you in your day to day work?

The biggest thing I took a way was knowledge about the development of the adolescent, and how it affects their thinking and choices. The resources on how to engage with an adolescent were really useful  and have helped me to build a good rapport with my clients.

Also useful was the training on gangs, the criminal justice system, safety planning, digital and online abuse, risk assessment and sexual abuse.

It was really useful to go into detailed safety planning and risk assessment, as you never know when this might be needed with a client. Also useful was how to respond to a crisis while maintaining your own safety.

The opportunity to discuss good practice with the other people on the course was invaluable. Collette and Alice were excellent facilitators and we had some good discussions during the training days.

What have you been up to since you finished the course? 

After 7 years in the domestic abuse field, I felt ready to use my skills in another area. I’m now a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) support worker, working with 11-18 year olds at risk of sexual exploitation. My SafeLives training has been vital when engaging with young people. While I am enjoying my current role, the work around domestic abuse will always be something I remain passionate about.

Finally, thinking about what you learned on the course as well as your own experiences with clients, what do you think are some important things for professionals to bear in mind when working with young people?

I think it’s really important to empathise with young people as much as possible and see things from an adolescent point of view. You need to show understanding and find the right balance of support. Establish a good rapport by finding out their likes and strengths. When it comes to confidentiality and safeguarding, make it clear you are not an authority figure and the support you’re offering is confidential.

Visit our training pages for more information on our current courses