The SOS team has joined forces with one of London's leading hospitals to offer intensive support to victims of gang-related crime.The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, met St Giles Trust's specialist caseworkers during his visit to the Major Trauma Centre at the Royal London Hospital, where they support young victims of youth violence and sexual exploitation
The Major Trauma Centre is a leading specialist centre which treats some of the most seriously injured patients across London, including victims of violent crimes such as assault and gun or knife crime. The number of young people admitted is high; the unit is one of only three major trauma centres serving the capital and the home of London’s Air Ambulance, so patients come from anywhere within the M25.
“We have been inundated with referrals – at least 20 trauma cases in just two months,” says senior caseworker Antonia. “A very high number of young people come through trauma and surgery. Most are victims of knife crime but we see victims of shooting and sexual exploitation too.”
Caseworkers Antonia and Roisin make contact anyone affected by serious youth violence. Funded by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and in partnership with Redthread, they check new admissions to establish whether they might be gang-related and offer their support. This extends beyond hospital discharge and into the community, covering issues such as help with accessing housing, welfare, education and training and helping young people re-establish ties with family. They also refer them to other sources of support in the community, to their local community safety team or to the SOS team if there is one in their borough.
“We offer intensive support to get them to a better place in life,” says Antonia. “They usually accept our offer of help. It’s often not the first time they have been injured and they’ve had enough. We call it the ‘teachable moment’ – they are seriously hurt and at their most vulnerable and recognise they need help. Most of the staff they come across are clinical. We’re talking their language and they respond well to that, so they start opening up.”
The team is part of a multi-agency partnership based at the hospital. A safeguarding team is also based at the hospital to deal with under-18s and the caseworkers meet weekly to discuss patients admitted that week. They also attend ward meetings twice a week with clinical staff to go through cases. Antonia and Roisin also visit the ICU and HDU wards where the most severely injured young people are to offer support before they are discharged.
Antonia believes that demand will grow for SOS services: “We’d expect it to be high if we were in A&E but even in Trauma there are a high number of young people affected by gang violence. Last week we met a 15 year old boy who had been stabbed. His parents declined help but he was back in the following day, having been stabbed yet again. He is clearly highly at risk, so we will try to contact his family again to talk to them about how we can support him if he is involved in a gang.”