Avert – Young Women’s Outreach Project

The Pilgrim Trust offered three years of funding to The Young Women’s Outreach Project (YWOP) in Gateshead as part of the AVERT programme. The programme aims to help prevent young women from entering the criminal justice system, or if they are already involved to help reduce their involvement.  Its main objectives are to support participants, to stay engaged or re-engage with education or training, and to help them manage the negative issues that affect their lives.

The Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project was set up in 1992 to support school age mothers who were excluded or self-excluding from school and until May 2014 was funded by the council. YWOP now offers support for vulnerable young women between the ages of 11-19 and they are referred to the project by a range of agencies including Social Services, Educational Institutions/Services, and Health Services although a small number self-refer.  YWOP is the only project in Tyne and Wear offering daytime provision for young women between the ages of 11 and 19.

The young women experience multiple issues including poverty, violence, abuse, family breakdown, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, severe bullying, and mental health problems. The project aims to support young women facing disadvantage or in need,  but it does not specifically target those who have already had contact with the penal system. They do address many of the protective and risk factors associated with girls and offending behaviour such as poverty, low self-esteem and disengagement from education. They provided support for those experiencing domestic violence in relationships and family relationships. The project is now  described as offering both early intervention and crisis support.

YWOP has provided support on the AVERT programme for 168 young women so far. The project offers small group work sessions and one to one support and focus on early intervention. The staff aim to establish strong relationships with academies and this helps identify early support needs and deal with the issues before they escalate.  Many of the young women they work with at YWOP have experienced ‘poverty, isolation, sexual abuse, domestic violence and severe bullying’.

In group work, participants focus on the issues pertinent to their lives, typical sessions focus on sexual, physical and emotional health, relationship and body image issues, resilience and problem solving.  Peer support is fostered and there is a emphasis on building confidence and self esteem, as this grows, young women can become involved in the planning and delivery of sessions. The aim of the programme is to ensure that young women and young mothers are given the right support and guidance to enable them to make informed choices, raise aspirations and ultimately  encourage them to play a full part in a changing society.

Images with kind permission of The Young Women’s Outreach Project