I met recently with Julia Worms, of the Respect Young People’s Service, to learn more about the Respect Young People’s Toolkit, which was officially launched in Britain last year, supporting work with young people using violence in close relationships.
Aside from work within criminal justice, Respect is unique in developing family violence interventions, setting standards for provision and operating as an umbrella membership organisation, as well as offering training and development. Its independence is important, allowing freedom to operate within the voluntary sector and to develop work such as the YP Toolkit.
With funding from Comic Relief and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Respect Young People’s project began in 2008, trialing and evaluating the work in 5 pilot sites over 2 years. From this the current version of the toolkit and programme of work (RYPP) has been distilled, but Julia is clear that this is still work in progress. Funding determined that the target age group was originally 11 +, looking at interventions addressing issues in relation to abusive behaviour in any close relationship, (siblings, dating, towards parents ). In practice practitioners are finding that the lower age for intervention is dropping to as young as 8 or 9.
What has been produced is very definitely a toolkit, and not a straightforward programme of work, though demand has meant that a practitioner’s manual has now been incorporated as part of this. Julia recognises that practitioners have anxieties about their lack of experience in this specific area of work and often have limited time resources, so this more fully meets their needs. Work with parents is also covered, both in terms of support and parenting strategies. Other aspects are also available as part of the training package including assessment, risk and case management
The training has evolved into a five-day package which has now been delivered to over 150 participants across the UK, most of whom will have had previous experience in the area of work with young people or domestic violence. In some cases practitioners were already engaged in this type of work (eg YOS) and this has added value to their interventions. Some have regrettably not been able to set up hoped-for projects because of funding issues. After attending the training, participants are able to access the toolkit online, searching for target group, age, type of violence or abuse, relationship dynamic and type of activity etc.
The work has a focus on a behavioural approach, and Julia commented that there also seems to be a move in this direction within the medical profession, where child to parent violence is an issue. But narrative theory, motivational work, solution focused work, anger management (controversially some might say) and creative work such as drama all feature, in a pragmatic approach which looks at what works in addressing abusive behaviour. By focusing on the behaviour, rather than the child, there is permission to say: “this is not acceptable”.
In terms of outcomes, projects are already reporting positively. Where there is engagement with parents and the young people, and where parental domestic violence is not ongoing, there have been good success rates. Persistence and listening to the young people are described as key to this. A full evaluation exists on the Respect website, within the Respect Young People’s Programme. The need for the work is overwhelming – Julia maintains that a current estimate of 5% of families being affected may be too low – but any intervention needs to be done appropriately and safely. It is hoped that, by building a body of knowledge and safe working practice, the programme (RYPP) will eventually be available for full accreditation.
Details of the next training sessions, and how to apply, are available on the website. Finally, Respect also offers to practitioners working with young people a directory of local services (available by phone) a practitioners network, and 2 annual seminars, the next of which is to be held in May 2012.