How the work of a relationship charity is helping to change the fate of a generation

Among families who participated in the Respect Young People's Programme delivered by TLC: Talk, Listen, Change, 70% of parents or carers reported an improvement in their children’s behavioural issues.However, referrals are continuing to increase, with over 1500 cases referred to the programme since April 2021 in Greater Manchester alone
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Despite huge pressures across the entire Children & Young Persons (CYP) sector, a recent independent report funded by the Home Office has shown that the Respect Young People's Programme delivered by TLC: Talk, Listen, Change is having a proven positive impact in terms of a number of measures including conduct, peer issues and emotional problems.

TLC: Talk, Listen, Change is a Greater Manchester based relationships charity that specialises in domestic abuse, separation and counselling, and has been working with Children and Young People who are displaying harmful behaviour across the region using the industry-leading approach to lower recidivism rates, improve wellbeing and support social inclusion.

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These problems can be stark - from truanting or antisocial behaviour, right through to incidents of violence or serious assault, and since the pandemic-enforced lockdowns, the problem has been on the rise.

TLC: Talk, Listen, Change 2024TLC: Talk, Listen, Change 2024
TLC: Talk, Listen, Change 2024

Incidents of child to parent abuse are disproportionately higher in households within deprived neighbourhoods, with 17 percent of victims living in the most deprived decile and 64 percent living in the more deprived half of neighbourhoods, while an estimated 50-80 percent of young people who engage in child to parent abuse have prior experience of domestic abuse in the family home, particularly in cases involving severe and/or frequent use of violence towards parents.

There is also compelling evidence about the impacts of child to parent abuse on families. Aside from the physical injuries caused by the violence, there are wider impacts for parents/carers in terms of their psychological health (e.g. anxiety and depression), financial harms (e.g. loss of income and home, property damage), family relationships (e.g. marital conflict), and harms to social life (including social withdrawal and isolation).

And the stigma around parents or carers reporting their children is making this issue even harder to solve. Data estimates that at least 40 per cent of parents or carers who experienced violence by their children between 2011 and 2020, refused to report it, making it exceptionally difficult to even begin to start solving the problem.

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However, in positive news, the new independent research funded by the Home Office has revealed that when supported by TLC: Talk, Listen, Change through the Respect Young People's Programme, parents and carers of children who display harmful behaviour reported a massive drop in conduct-related problems (70%), hyperactivity (66%) and emotional problems (45%) thanks to the programme's approach that centres on skills-based learning and techniques such as de-escalation skills.

And positive results were also reported by the children themselves with 63% reporting an increase in their future and coping skills, 68% an improvement in their thoughts and 59% an improvement in their feelings.

The results were seen on a huge number of cases, with over 2,000 referrals made to the charity’s Children and Young People’s services since January 2021, with 77% of those cases being handled through the Respect Young People's Programme.

Michelle Hill, CEO at TLC: Talk, Listen, Change said: “We’ve been incredibly pleased with the results that we’re seeing throughout the Respect Young People's Programme, a service that is creating a real difference in the lives of thousands of children across the region.

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“Our team of expertly-trained professionals are really revolutionising how we deal with CYP-related issues. TLC: Talk, Listen, Change has worked with Respect to refine the programme, allowing them to better target the most important areas of focus and include elements such as de-escalation, to allow children to regain control of their own actions and support both them and their families to better resolve conflict.”

The Respect Young People's Programme focuses on a highly targeted approach that involves 1-on-1 sessions with referred CYP and their families, which are designed to identify the specific needs of each user. These allow TLC’s key workers to dig into the issues and determine what could be the root cause of the harmful behaviour, as many of the young people being supported have been victims of domestic abuse themselves, including having witnessed abuse in their own home.

Bradley O’Donoghue, a Senior Service Manager involved in delivering the Respect Young People's Programme commented; “There are 2 parts to the programme. There is working with the young person to identify which behaviours they are displaying are healthy and which are unhealthy, but it is also a bit of building that relationship with the young person.

I think whilst we are teaching them de-escalation skills and how to recognize their emotions and to express them in a healthy way, it is also undoing some of that past trauma or past stigma, because often it is just young people who haven’t necessarily been listened to or given a platform to speak about what they have witnessed if they are also a victim of abuse.”

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Hannah Taylor, Director of Services at TLC: Talk, Listen, Change said: “Ultimately what we're doing is supporting families to improve their immediate situations. We want to be delivering changes quickly for those that are at risk, as well as developing early intervention strategies for young people who are displaying harmful behaviours before they take those behaviours into adulthood.

“It’s the combination of these elements in our work that truly makes it so effective when dealing with young people who need our help.”

TLC: Talk, Listen, Change’s approach is designed to give young people an understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like within families, households and friendship groups and giving them that foundation to take into adulthood because we know that unhealthy relationships in childhood, if not addressed seep out into our adult relationships.”

The programme aims to re-build family and peer relations by teaching new behaviour and provide tools and techniques to cope with emotions so they don’t lead to violence - a goal that it’s achieving, according to the latest data from the report.

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As well as the individual benefits for each child, service users also were shown to have lower rates of peer problems (36%) and more prosocial behaviour (43%). In addition, data from Greater Manchester Police also shows that there is a reduction of 41% in police incidents for those that have completed at least the minimum intervention of the Respect Young People's Programme.

However, despite the immense success of the work done by TLC: Talk, Listen, Change, the organisation has called out for more support for the sector due to the continually rising case numbers and funding reductions.

“The state of the CYP support sector at the moment is perhaps the worst we’ve seen in years” Michelle continued. “The impacts of the pandemic and lockdown are still having a huge effect on the wellbeing of children and young people, while the classic pressures of life, school, social media and the economy are making it harder than ever.

We’re seeing a demand crisis right now. More and more children and young people are asking for our help - but with funding cuts across the whole country, we simply don’t have the resources to support them.

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The report provides clear evidence that the Respect Young People's Programme works. As a whole sector, we need to be offered the level of support that allows us to help every child across the UK, which in turn offers so many benefits from higher school attendance to lower anti-social behaviour incidents and of course lower domestic abuse both in child and adulthood.”

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