Youth workers have been deployed in a hospital emergency department to tackle the underlying issues leading young people to violence.

Sean Older and Roman Waters are on the front line at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, in Brighton, meeting young people who may have experienced violence, victimhood, or criminal exploitation.

Doctors at the hospital said they were able to provide the medical care the young people needed but would go home at the end of each day wishing they had the time and facilities to treat the underlying issues.

The Hospital Youth Work Project was created to combat the gap in care and since being set up just last year has already had a positive impact on patients.

“We’ve had great feedback from young people who have said it’s changed their behaviours, their approach to health care and made them ready to speak with other professionals,” said Sean.

“Young people don’t always feel ready to speak to officials. The way that we hold engagement in informal settings helps them to free their story up.


This article is part of our Cut Knife Crime campaign.

Our mission is to reduce knife crime and the number of people being injured and killed in stabbings through:

  • Increasing the use of knife amnesty bins.
  • Educating young people about knife crime and making them aware of the effects it has on not just the victim, but those around them
  • Having more bleed control kits in pubs, shops and businesses

“This is important. People go to hospital when they need help, and sometimes that’s not only a medical presentation. Having this service here when young people the most help, meeting them in that space has been welcomed not only by young people but by care givers and the hospital staff.

“Since we’ve been here, we’ve been able to join them up with things that suit their needs. It’s a privilege to be here to do that with them.

“Our work has an effect on people seeking help in the right way. We give them advice about where to get that help. We’ve seen a reduction in terms of reattendance, our work has meant young people are keener to seek help elsewhere.”

The Argus:

The project, which has already helped around 400 young people, won the Safeguarding Award at the Children and Young People Now awards on Thursday (November 23).

Dr Oli Rahman, a paediatric consultant at the hospital and a Rockinghorse trustee, said staff have seen a change in who comes through the doors.

“Before, we were managing more traditional things you would see in a children’s ED, such as pneumonia, asthma, broken bones,” he said.

“What we’ve noticed, particularly in the last five years, is there are more and more teenagers and young people presenting with psychological issues, mental health problems, or eating disorders, and we were struggling to cope with the demand.

The Argus: Dr Oli RahmanDr Oli Rahman (Image: The Argus)

“Doctors and nurses now feel like they are doing something more than patching them up and sending them away.”

The project is delivered by the Trust for Developing Communities with funding from the Sussex Violence Reduction Partnership, a partner of Sussex Police, and the Rockinghorse children’s charity based in Brighton.

READ MORE: Eddie Izzard calls for tougher sentences to stop knife crime

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Yates, force lead for knife crime and serious violence, said: “I think the project is absolutely fantastic.

“What we've seen around knife crime and serious violence is that if they're coming here [the hospital] with tragic injuries and it is likely they will become either an offender or a victim again within the next year.

“People don’t always want to speak to police officers, which is why we need this partnership approach. Young people will open up to the youth workers, it’s a different level of engagement.”

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