I spent a fascinating evening with Redthread at City Hall this month. The occasion – hosted by my colleague, Caroline Pidgeon AM – celebrated the dynamic youth work charity’s inspirational achievements. The Mayor of London delivered a rousing speech, we heard from courageous young people whose lives have been transformed by the charity, and George the Poet delivered a powerful spoken word performance in his inimitable style.
We also learnt about ‘teachable moments’, which are at the heart of the Redthread approach. Its Violence Intervention Programme embeds specialist youth workers in the emergency departments of hospitals across the capital. After young victims of violence or exploitation have been admitted, and their immediate medical emergency dealt with, they’re invited to meet with Redthread youth workers.
This is the ‘teachable moment’ – a powerful opportunity for reflection and positive change, created by the pain, isolation and fear brought on by crisis. Following a period of relationship-building in the resuscitation bay, youth workers support young people in the hospital wards and then back in their communities with an action plan. Whether they’ve been the victim of a stabbing, are seeking support for anxiety, have suffered sexual assault or want to find a new home beyond the reach of a gang, Redthread’s youth workers empower young people to overcome their challenges.
The programme has been evaluated and the results are impressive. In 2017, over 1,000 young people were referred to its services. Over 60 per cent proceeded to engage with one of the charity’s youth workers. One-third were signposted to health and/or mental health services and one quarter were referred. Within a year of referral to Redthread, almost 80 per cent did not reattend hospital for any reason and, of those who did, only 12 per cent did so for violence-related injuries.
London has four major trauma centres – King’s College Hospital, St Mary’s, St George’s and Royal London – and Redthread youth workers are embedded in all of them. The scheme has since expanded to Hackney’s Homerton University Hospital (in my constituency) and has opened its first bases outside London, in Nottingham and Birmingham.
The charity’s model is so effective that the Mayor is keen to expand it to all major trauma centres and the charity is fundraising to spread it even further, across the whole of England.
Helping young people break out of the cycle of violence they can get caught up in is an urgent priority. I commend the public health approach, which has been rolled out in London by the Mayor through his Violence Reduction Unit. A focus on prevention is key to tackling the scourge of violent crime and Redthread is one of the organisations leading the way on this.