A Bishop, A Breakfast, and Lives Changed

by Michael Ford last modified 19 Mar, 2019 06:06 PM

A growing workload and a budget that has been cut in half hasn’t stopped Dorset Youth Association from delivering services directly to children, young people and families in the county.

A Bishop, A Breakfast, and Lives Changed

Bishop Karen with Lorna Johnson and members of the DYA

But having the church work alongside them has helped a lot.

That was the message given by the Association’s speakers at the Bishop of Sherborne’s Rural Breakfast, held at Kingston Maurward.

Dave Thompson, the CEO of the DYA said that over the past 75 years since the association was founded they had needed to adapt to enable them to continue their work:
"It is worse now than I have ever known it to be to try and raise money, we have seen a significant impact from the cuts.

"Last year we raised £376,000 compared with our funding of £675,000 5 years ago," he said.

"And this against a background where more young people in Dorset are reporting mental health issues while we are unable to meet the demand for mental health services.

"Added to this is the impact of domestic violence, the issues around Cyber Bullying, the County Lines drugs distribution and the problems of rural isolation," he told the clergy and representatives of local schools, authorities, the police and the NHS who had been invited to attend the early morning event.

Allen Knott, chairman of the Association and a Lay Minister in our Diocese said: "The safety net for young people is organisations like us."

One of the five Family Link Workers supported by the Association is Lorna Johnson, who is also an ordinand in our Diocese. She said she had been very grateful for the support from local churches in her work with families.

"Families need a safe space, they need to know you care about them and to ask difficult questions you need a safe space and churches are these, they are wonderful resources," she said.

She then give those who attended the breakfast an example to illustrate the issues of domestic violence coupled with learning disabilities or differences:
“I worked with a seven year old girl in a small village in West Dorset, the child had witnessed severe domestic abuse and was severely traumatised and in the primary school playground unknown triggers would lead her to be suddenly violent.

"When I arrived the problems were being blamed on parenting of the single mother who had put herself into care as a child due to neglect and violence at home. Working in the family home I found out that loving 'boundaried' parenting was in place.

"I worked with the girl and Mum and school and the special educational needs team to get Mum’s voice heard in meetings, previously she had been very volatile in meetings, and get support to secure treatment for the real issues of past trauma and get the child’s severe autism diagnosed.

"The young girl is now thriving at a specialised school and Mum has sorted her debt problems, secured help for depression and is volunteering at the local church food bank and considering going to Weymouth College to take functional Maths English and ICT."

Lorna Johnson’s talk can be found here.

Bishop Karen praised the work of the Association's peer to peer 'Strengthening Families' programme, which she had seen first-hand.

The six week programme allows a number of parents and their children attend in the evenings, and using a DVD teaching programs and a course of activities get the motivation and skills to show love, attention, use good communication and apply consistent boundaries in their family homes.

Lorna Johnson said:
"Parenting is another complicated common area. Problems are often inter-generational, parents having not been parented well themselves and other complicating, issues lack of knowledge and skills.

"We say, 'You are the experts of your family but, if you want, we can help you try some things other parents say work. Which is basically love and limits and we will walk with you while you give it a go."

Mr Thompson said the Association provided support for other organisations such as 69 local youth clubs and groups, it had a network of 386 volunteers and 75 paid staff and distributed a weekly e-bulletin to a further 302 staff and volunteers in the VCS.

But he said it was extremely difficult to raise money to support and engage with the 3,000 young people in Dorset and the 300 families that they were working intensively with at this time, through the Family Link Worker Service.

“We have clear evidence that we are making a difference to families including a family’s own self-assessment of where they are at on a scales of 1 to 10 before and after our work together.

Lorna Johnson added:
"We measure reduction in family conflicts, parenting, the family’s educational aspiration, mental and physical wellbeing, antisocial behaviour, employability and getting into work.

"The project saves almost £3 to the public purse for every Dorset £1 invested in the Family Link Work service. With the creation of the new council we have funding until the end of the year for this service, but do not know if the service will continue."

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