Young people in Croydon need your help. A small but significant group of adolescents in our London borough face serious risks outside their home: drug gangs, knife violence, sexual exploitation.
Many people have already given up on them, but not us. At Croydon we are building a new integrated service just for them. A service that sees the vulnerable child behind the outward facade and gives them the help they need to be safe.
“The service we’re creating really matters for these young people,” says head of service Hannah Doughty, who moved to London from Liverpool to lead on its creation. “I want them to have somebody they can go to that they trust, so that years down the line they can say, ‘That’s the woman, man, person who made a difference for me.”
Since qualifying as a social worker, Hannah has always worked with young people and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Adolescents are challenging but it’s a really interesting time in their lives,” she explains. “Most adolescents who are challenging are really funny – they have a great sense of humour and a lot of them are entrepreneurial.
“Adolescence is a time of exploration and what we want to do is make that a time of safe-as-possible exploration by befriending and supporting them to see the risks and make positive decisions.”
Croydon’s new adolescent service will bring together all services supporting teenagers at high risk. There will be two adolescent support teams that bring together the complementary skillsets of social workers and youth workers.
Alongside them will be the local youth offending service, the council’s experienced gangs team and its child exploitation and missing intelligence hub.
Empowered social workers
“Our Ofsted outcome last September galvanised us to improve the way we work with young people,” says Hannah. “Current child in need and child protection processes are not always the best fit for working with adolescents, so we are developing innovative approaches to reducing risk for young people.
“We’re going to do things differently by bringing our work with adolescents into one place and not being risk averse. We’re going to be a service where social workers are empowered to make the difficult but defensible decisions that can make a real difference to young people.”
Embrace the challenge
– Just 15 minutes from central London and Gatwick Airport
– Vibrant culture and night life
– Reasonable house prices
– Great shops and Westfield Croydon under development
– 117 parks and green spaces
– Relocation package worth up to £8,000
At the heart of the service’s approach is direct work. “I don’t think you can change lives for adolescents without direct work,” says Hannah.
“That’s why we’re looking for social workers who are really enthusiastic about working with adolescents and understand the risks they might face here.
“We want social workers who are persistent and will go out and find the young people because we know the young people will respond to that because they will then know that somebody cares for them.”
It’s the ideal job for social workers who don’t run away from the hard stuff and embrace challenge, says Hannah: “I came to Croydon for the challenge and the chance to make a difference. I might moan while I’m doing it but I like a challenge because it’s the most rewarding thing to take on.
“These are difficult kids but once you’ve engaged with them you can really make a difference and what I’ve found in Croydon is that there are a lot of adolescents who need social workers who enjoy a challenge.”
But, she adds, the social workers who become part of the new service will have plenty of support behind them: “We’ve got a lot of experienced people within our service, for example I came here from Liverpool where criminal exploitation has been entrenched for a long time and partners are working together successfully to address that.
“It’s a supportive workplace too, it’s really struck me since I’ve joined what a nice and friendly place Croydon is to work for and how people support each other. This is a new service I want staff to feel ownership of it and for it to be a service that’s inclusive of new ideas for how we can make adolescents safe.”
“And it’s going to be rewarding too because, ultimately, working with adolescents is an area of social work where you are able to make a positive outcome to a young person that a lot of people have probably given up on before.”