Beth*, our Young Women’s Keyworker, explains.
“One of the biggest things that’s different about working with girls this age is what they need support with. A lot of them don’t have problematic substance use, and a lot don’t have children like the older women we support. That might make it sound simpler, but the challenges are just different: a lot of the girls are currently in care, in school, or are just starting to be independent, with no idea how to live on their own.
“From the age of about 16, we support a lot of girls who are moving into their own accommodation and because many have never had consistent adult role models, they don’t know how to do household tasks like using a washing machine or mopping the floor. Things so many people take for granted because their parents do it for them, like opening a bank account, can be overwhelming. So I do a lot of support around things like that.
“Another challenge with this group is that a lot of them are in school from 9-3.30, which gives me a very small window to check in. They don’t make calls on phones much anyway, but that’s another reason I use WhatsApp and Voice Notes a lot – that way, I can get in touch and they can get my messages and check in with me when they can.
“Gang issues can make it harder to meet face-to-face in any of Advance’s women’s centres, because travelling to a centre could take a girl through an area controlled by a gang that might be a problem for her. So I go out and about a lot, meeting girls where they live, rather than having them travel.
“The language I use is totally different from what Minerva Keyworkers use with Advance’s adult women clients. Some people might think it sounds unprofessional, but that’s what young women respond to and helps me connect with them.
A lot of these girls have come through care, so they don’t have any role models – so we act as that, a trusted adult, as well as providing information and support. I want to sound less like a probation officer, more like a big ‘sister’.”
*Not her real name
No-one should be left behind. Women demand better.
Read more about young women in contact with the criminal justice system in our report
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