Bully Beefs


    Bullying is a huge blight on the lives of many young people and
    their families that can lead to problems such as low self-esteem,
    depression and isolation.

     


    But in Bolton, Greater Manchester, a project is helping young
    people to resolve bullying incidents and provide support for their
    families.

     


    Called the Family Support Project, it won the supporting children
    and families category in the Community Care Awards,
    announced in December.

     


    Set up in November 2003 by Bully Free Zone, a leading anti-bullying
    organisation in the North West, its referrals come from young
    people and their parents, Connexions, schools and community mental
    health teams.

     


    Emma Elcoat, the project’s family support co-ordinator,
    emphasises that the damage bullying causes cannot be
    underestimated. “We had a case recently where a girl
    wouldn’t leave the house,” she says.

     


    After the initial referral, Elcoat meets the young person to assess
    the situation and they and their family are offered a package of
    support which can include one-to-one intensive support meetings,
    group work, peer support, coping strategies workshops and creative
    art and drama.

     


    Elcoat says: “A lot of the cases involve girls, and the most
    common form of bullying is psychological which is more difficult to
    deal with than physical violence. It causes so many problems for
    the victim and affects their self-esteem. We work with the school
    and the family to sort out the problem and reach agreement about
    how this will be done.”

     


    The project has forged links with more than half the schools in
    Bolton, including secondary schools, to resolve specific cases and
    raise awareness of the broader issues.

     


    But it’s tough for parents too. Elcoat says: “They feel
    helpless and isolated and don’t know the procedures and
    policies and it helps to talk to someone who can point them in the
    right direction.”

     


    A young persons’ group meets monthly, and recent innovations
    have included an arts project featuring a graffiti wall and photo
    board where young people expressed their feelings and exhibited
    pictures of subjects that were important to them.


    Elcoat says: “The last group bonded well and over the summer
    we worked with the tour manager of comedian Peter Kay and the
    Phoenix drama group to create a 15-minute DVD about bullying. It
    was premiered at a ceremony attended by the Coronation
    Street
    actor Chris Finch.

     


    “When the kids first come here many are closed off from
    everybody and monosyllabic. But after a couple of months you see
    them laughing, joking, making friends and going to each
    other’s houses for tea.”

     


    Did they expect to win? “We were surprised. We thought of the
    awards as a nice day out. We took two of the young people with us
    and everybody had a fantastic day. It’s been brilliant since
    – now we can say we are a national award-winning
    project!”


    So popular was the film-making that the project may use the
    £5,000 prize money to buy its own equipment. But first, Elcoat
    says, the young people themselves must be consulted for their
    ideas.

     


    Sadly, the project’s funding is secure only until March.
    “We are not sure whether we are going to get the funding to
    continue, which is worrying. The work we are doing is
    invaluable.” 


     


    Making a difference

     


    What the young people said:


    • “Bully Free Zone has helped me


      keep going to school and I now feel


      a lot more confident in myself.”

    • “Working on the video was great. We’re all really good
      mates now and


      it doesn’t matter what happens at school because I know
      I’ve got someone to talk to.”

    • “Thank you for listening to me and helping me. I probably
      wouldn’t have gone back to school if it wasn’t for
      everyone at Bully Free Zone.”


     The supporting children and families category was
    sponsored by Sedgemoor

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