Guest blog: Carys Lee, young victims’ support worker with Umbrella Cymru

1st July 2021

Umbrella Cymru is commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent to provide support services to any young person under the age of 18 who has been affected by crime or antisocial behaviour. The service is available to any young victim or witness of crime or antisocial behaviour regardless of when the incident happened.

I joined Umbrella Cymru as a support worker for young victims in September 2020 having previously worked within a secure mental health hospital. I was keen to use the skills and knowledge that I developed supporting adults with their mental health to help children and young people.

The children and young people that we support are referred to us in different ways. Some are referred by the police following a recent incident, while others are referred by their schools or their parents. Some children and young people contact us themselves and we would encourage more young people to do this. Our support is free and confidential so we would like young people to know that we’re here to help.  

We find that the most common reasons that young people access our support are bullying, or after they have been the victim of an assault. It often helps to have someone outside of the school or family environment for them to talk to.

Once we have contacted a young person there is a range of support we can provide. This can include emotional support, and simply being someone impartial to talk to, to offering practical guidance on things such as healthy relationships or staying safe online. We can also guide young people through confidence building exercises to help them build up their self esteem and support them with coping strategies to reduce the impact an incident has on their relationships, behaviours or day-to-day life.

For example, I was recently supporting a young person who was having issues controlling their anger and was reacting violently whenever they got upset. This was completely understandable due to the nature of the incident they were a victim of, so I wanted to work with them on coping with the impact and managing their reactions to emotions. I was able to introduce them to the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique which is a simple way to help people focus on their current surroundings and de-escalate a situation. The young person had a lot of success using this tool and has reported that it has been a huge help them.

The 54321 grounding technique

This technique is really useful to help relieve anxiety and feelings of anger by making you focus on your surroundings, and is one of many tools and exercises we use with the young people we support.

Focus on:
5 things you can see

4 things you can feel

3 things you can hear

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste

My advice to a parent, guardian, teacher or anyone else who has responsibility for a child or young person that has been affected by crime, is simply to be there and listen to them without judgement. Offer them emotional support but don’t push them if they are not ready for it yet. Help them to access professional support as soon as they are ready as this really can help to reduce the long-term impact being a victim or witness to crime can have.