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SHiFT works with children and young people who are caught in the destructive cycle of crime and associated behaviours.

Sophie Humphreys, Chair and Co-Founder of SHiFT

I have been a Social Worker for over 20 years and have worked with some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families living among us.

 

I firmly believe that to finally bring about meaningful change for them, all of us across society need to do whatever it takes to show we totally believe in them. When we do, they begin to believe in themselves and their aspirations become a reality.  

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With colleagues, I started SHiFT because I am determined to change children’s perceptions of themselves, but also to fundamentally challenge others’ perceptions of them in every aspect of their lives, such as their community, family and professionals.  

 

The people I meet in this work are both the children and families who face the enormous challenges that arise from trauma and abuse, poverty and discrimination to generational unemployment, poor physical and mental health.  

Ours is a community of exceptional people, looking for better, striving for solutions and a determination to strengthen bonds between children, parents and communities.  Many of the children have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect in various areas of their lives and through this lost confidence and self-esteem. They may also be wary of professionals intervening in their lives, having been let down multiple times in the past. We don't position our practitioners as social workers, but rather as Guides, who work creatively and with kindness, supporting and going alongside them, and helping them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   

We start from their aspirations. Each child is supported by a Guide who will focus on building trust and a genuine relationship with them, listening to their needs and wishes, responding to their individual circumstances and reassuring them that we are with and alongside them for the long term, whatever it takes. And from this more solid base, we then push them to be their best selves.   

We show them that we will be there for them in a crisis (such as supporting them through an arrest or presenting in court or getting access to the right service during a mental health episode), address immediate needs such as food, clothing or housing, and then work with them to think about their longer-term goals and aspirations. As some children have not been in school throughout lockdown, this might mean sitting alongside them at school for a period of time to ensure that they feel secure and helping them with their assignments to re-build confidence. Or it might mean looking at different approaches to learning, looking for skills and interests that could propel them along a different trajectory.  

 

The Guide will also engage with the wider family, including parents and siblings, supporting them to strengthen their relationships, communication and resilience. For example, arranging family days out or spending a weekend alongside the family to work on the dynamics within their relationships, cooking and eating together and helping them to build bridges where these relationships have previously been strained. They will also explore the reasons behind their behaviours and why they have responded in particular ways in the past.    

“My guide helps me get my voice heard. He understands what I am saying, he just gets me when others don't. Shift has supported me each time I have had to go to court and have kept me calm“

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We are working with about 50 young people and their families across Kingston and Richmond and the second in Greenwich.  The results are looking good. We have seen really troubled young people take major steps forward and we are with them on this road.  We know how special they are and we are proud to be working with them.