Community Care’s older children and teenagers award for 2006 went to a project that reaches out to adolescents who are at risk from domestic violence. Anabel Unity Sale meets the lead worker
Experiencing domestic violence is appalling for anyone, least of all for children and young people who may be frightened and confused. This is why the Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum (NDVF) established the Impact Project, which won the Older Children and Teenagers category in the Community Care Awards 2006.
The Impact Project reaches out to vulnerable children and young people – often excluded from mainstream schools – aged nine to 19 who may be at risk of experiencing domestic violence, or who have already witnessed it in their families and help them understand what constitutes domestic violence, how unacceptable it is and what they can do when and if it happens to them.
Isabel Turnball is the lead for the Impact Project. Aged 33, she has been a youth worker for the past seven years and previously worked as a drugs and alcohol counsellor for a voluntary sector organisation. She says: “When I was a drugs and alcohol counsellor lots of the young people I saw coped with domestic violence by misusing substances. I realised there was a huge number of young people experiencing domestic violence and it wasn’t being raised or addressed.” Although schools have a duty to teach sex education classes to their students, she says these lessons rarely covers issues also relevant to relationships: “Sex education concentrates on sexually transmitted diseases and not enough work is done on what is abuse in a relationship.”
Launched two years ago, the Impact Project is funded to the tune of £150,000 for the next three years. Its main backer is the Community Fund, although numerous other bodies support it too. So far the project has worked with 382 young people and has trained 229 professionals from social care, health and education backgrounds on working with children at risk of domestic violence. By the end of its funding next year Impact aims to have worked with 570 young people and trained 430 workers.
Accessibility is key to Turnball’s sessions for young people. Rather then being stuck in a stuffy classroom she takes the Impact Project to her target audience. “I work in community buildings, in youth clubs and leisure centres, and outside mainstream schools. This is a different way of working so I don’t have to rely on fitting into the healthy schools agenda.”
Children and young people complete four two-hour sessions on domestic violence. They discuss the importance of boundaries, the definition of physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. It is also emphasised that the perpetrators have a choice. Turnball says: “We help young people understand that if it happens to them it is not their fault. Of the young people I’ve worked with here 33 per cent have disclosed past abuse through domestic violence.”
To aid engagement, Turnball employs artists, musicians and co-facilitators for some sessions. She also uses the music of artists such as Lemar and Jamelia, and soap operas such as Coronation Street to communicate the message. Other organisations have approached Turnball requesting she provide sessions for their clients, including disabled young people and young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Of the Community Care award Turnball says: “It’s absolutely fantastic! I didn’t think we’d win as domestic violence is such a political issue and a taboo subject that other people don’t want to be seen to endorse it.”
So how will they spend their winnings? Turnball says Impact will consult its clients on how they can help create the first website devoted solely to young people with experiences of domestic violence. It will be aimed at older teenagers and young people having sexual relationships.
She says: “Our young people are always telling us they want to help other young people and how they themselves can end an abusive relationship.”
● Find out more about the project by e-mailing Isabel