The power of storytelling, offender narratives and empathy ??
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
The need to prioritise relationships over the application of "expert fixes" was evident in the findings of the recent HMI Probation report on desistance and young people.
?Indeed, as Dame Glenys Stacey said recently, a "trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker or other professional" is not "rocket science" but hugely crucial if offending is to be prevented.??
However it must be recognised that not all youth offending service workers can achieve the aim of building empathic and authentic relationships for various reasons. Some of these reasons include diminishing resources, existing cultural challenges with some staff not seeing it as "core" business, procedural and bureaucratic systems and "box-ticking" tasks hindering engagement between workers and children.??
Working with professionals and young people to elicit their views and experiences, Peer Power provides innovative "Empathy Lab" sessions with the aim of improving relationships and increasing engagement with services. Empathy is described as perspective taking. That is the ability to take the view of another and recognise that as truth. It also involves staying out of judgment and recognising such emotion. This can be a powerful engagement tool in social care and justice services.??
As Peer Power Founder Anne-Marie Douglas states, it is "human connections" and understanding each other's perspectives that makes the difference in engagement with services. Human beings are hard-wired to connect and to belong, and yet this can get lost in systems, bureaucracy and multiple workers. Indeed at the Peer Power launch at the House of Lords last week, Whitney, 17, referred to empathy and how crucial it is that professionals adopt a helping role, listening to young people and seeing life experiences through the eyes of a child.
??As Anne-Marie Douglas has also said, the alleged abuse of young people in Medway Secure Training Centre has revealed that often young people with adverse childhood experiences are not listened to. By instilling empathy, listening and taking real action we can tackle ongoing institutional abuses of children in our care.
Sean Creaney is an advisor at social justice charity Peer Power