What’s love got to do with it? The CAADA ypp conference

Sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t get into the workshop you wanted; but it can open your eyes to new learning, new colleagues and so many cross-over ideas.

In the past we simply “held” too many people. Now we have the evidence to design new practice to really “help”.

– some responses from individuals at the recent CAADA conference.

The Park Inn in Manchester was the venue last week for the 2nd CAADA Young People’s Programme conference, “What’s love got to do with it: Challenging the use of abuse and violence in young people’s relationships”. Delegates from varied agencies and from around the country were treated to inspiring and challenging speakers, and a range of seminars examining responses to young people’s use of violence in communities, intimate relationships, families and online.

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of CAADA, opened the conference with a call to Speak, to Listen and to Lead Change for the future. Indeed, throughout the day, these themes were repeated, as we were encouraged to break the silence around young people’s violence, so that new responses might be developed and delivered.

The calmness with which Sue Berelowitz delivered the findings and recommendations of the inquiry into CSE in gangs and groups emphasised the seriousness of the subject, but made it all the more shocking. The apparent fatality of the young people in accepting “this is what happens” makes it even less likely that they will seek help and so all the more important that a proactive response is developed within principles of good practice. Listening to, and focusing on the child is fundamental to a proposed new Child Protection Framework, the full details of which can be found within the reports on the Children’s Commissioner website.

I have heard Professor David Gadd speak on his research into why some young men become abusive on several occasions now; but each time there is something new to take away. This time I wrote down “The questions you ask dictate the answers you get”. Indeed, if we are serious about listening to young people we must be careful about our own assumptions getting in the way. Listening to young people is fundamental to letting them lead the agenda when we are seeking to support them. Full details of his work and the report into practice implications can be found on the Boys to Men Project website.

Who cares about the graveyard slot after lunch! A second workshop was followed by a thought provoking presentation from some of Leap’s young trainers, and a focus again on the importance of making relationships. Have we really moved so far away from this fundamental tenet of social care that it needs to be reiterated so often? Sadly we all know the answer, but responding within the statutory sector will be a challenge where there are constraints of time, workload and relationship boundaries that actively discourage the sort of work being carried out to such good effect elsewhere.

Carlene Firmin’s afternoon presentation about peer on peer abuse encouraged us to dive deep into multi-layered systems to find not just the risk factors but also the safety factors, and a reminder that they will vary across different scenarios. Where young people straddle the definitions of perpetrator and victim we need to create responses for people – not for labels. This, of course, challenges our tendency to fit people into boxes and develop services accordingly.

Workshops and seminars enabled us to meet those actively engaged in developing and delivering the sort of resources being advocated. I gave up counting the number of times we were exhorted to give time to building relationships, to see people as individuals, not labels, to challenge the old ways of doing things and to think in new ways. Young people exposed to, and caught up in violence can sometimes seem ambivalent about what they want, but “no one has said they are happy and enjoy that lifestyle”. Building trust to enable change may take a long time, and we need to applaud and support those able and willing to invest that time. New friendships forged and new contacts made with colleagues too, are a welcome by-product of events such as this!

For those particularly interested in children’s violence to parents there was a very interesting presentation from Emily Alison, who has been pioneering some work with parents and young people in the Trafford area. I hope to post something further about this in the near future. Even without this specialist seminar though, there was so much to take away about the violence that too many young people experience on a day to day basis; and the impact of this on every aspect of their lives.

All the presentations are available on the CAADA website, and I will certainly be taking the opportunity to go through them again slowly. In addition there is much information on the various websites, from where research documents can also be downloaded. Take time to read them all, whether or not they seem relevant to your particular field of work. Who knows what young people are experiencing in their lives, until we ask and take the time to look.

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