‘Navigating’ young people away from violent crime

An innovative partnership programme funded by the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is helping young people to escape a cycle of harm.

17th November 2022

An innovative partnership programme funded by the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is helping young people to escape a cycle of harm.

Called A&E Navigator, it sees dedicated case workers operating within emergency departments of hospitals.

By building trusting relationships and developing tailored plans, the ‘navigator’ helps those with violence related injuries to access appropriate support services.

The Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust was the first to adopt the approach in February 2021 and has since made in excess of 600 referrals.

They were shortly followed by Bradford Royal Infirmary, who have directly supported more than 100 young people, and had more than a thousand interactions with those in crisis.

From involvement in knife crime, assault with a weapon to drugs, gangs and exploitation, it allows professionals to intervene at the earliest opportunity.

Director of the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), Chief Superintendent Jackie Marsh said:

“We know from the experience in Leeds and Bradford that many of those attending with violence related injuries, often stem from knife crime.

“Our research tells us that a high proportion of these are likely to be males in their late teens, which is a real challenge.

“It is absolutely critical that we continue to intervene at the first chance we get, and remove our young people from the revolving doors, which can lead back to further harm.”

Dr Najeeb Rahman, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: 

“It is always shocking when young people attend with such injuries, but tragically is becoming an all too regular occurrence.

“I’m proud to be involved in the A&E Navigator programme, which sees a dedicated team of trained youth workers deployed throughout the Emergency Department at the LGI.

“The medical impact on these young people and their friends and family can be huge; with both physically and psychologically traumatising injuries.

“We have such a small window of opportunity to engage with them and help divert them to a different path, so we must do all we can in that 'reachable moment'.

“On-site A&E Navigators provides the Trust with an extra tool to be able to do that.”

Farah Naz is the Senior General Manager for Urgent and Emergency Care at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and added:

“The reasons behind violence and admission to an emergency department can be complicated, and beyond the surface are not always directly related to the health of an individual.

“The youth workers as navigators are there to care, guide and provide practical support in a non-judgemental way to people who may be experiencing trauma and serious adversity, which may be preventing them from living a safe and positive lifestyle.

“There is no pressure for people to engage with navigators, but the service provides a safe environment which allows for open conversation.

“Support can also extend beyond discharge, through referral to services who can continue to help such as The Buddies Service or Breaking the Cycle. If people want, the navigators can also work closely with families and loved ones to follow up on care and advice.”