Part of the Stories of Change project. Film by Gemma Thorpe; image by Kay Aitch.
Violet is an involvement worker at Sheffield Futures. She is also a Young Advisor, working with charities, businesses and the Council, to make Sheffield a better place for young people.
My name’s Violet. I’m 20 years old. I’ve always had a passion to help young people because I didn’t have the easiest of ‘youths’, if you like, so I think it’s important that young people get the support – not just what they need, y’know – that they want. It needs to be tailored to them – one size doesn’t fit all.
My story is a little bit different from most people that you will meet. I come from a very diverse family – we’re a mix of two cultures. At sixteen, I was engaged to be married, and I decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I was actually the victim of sexual assault relating to that. That was, you know, quite a… quite hard thing for me to… to deal with. It’s thanks to youth workers, actually, at Sheffield Futures and my lead, Sarah, that I came through that and I’m able to deal with what happened now. They made me see that I could come through it and I could see the other side because a lot of the time I thought that it was my fault, and what happened to me wasn’t my fault. They made me see that, and for that I’m very grateful.
A year later I fell pregnant with my son who is now two-and-a-half. I struggled with my pregnancy and the aftermath of having him because (a), I had quite a difficult labour, and (b), I were only seventeen and… y’know, anybody who’s got kids knows that it’s a bit of a… bit of a shock to the system, so if you imagine that at seventeen…
I were diagnosed with post-natal depression, which I still receive counselling for now, and I’m still on medication for that now. Between the ages of 16 and 18, it’s a bit of a no-man’s-land because you’re not quite an adult but you’re not a child and it was so difficult for me to get the support that I needed because they didn’t know where to put me, they didn’t know whether to put me with children’s mental health services or whether to put me with the adults and so because they don’t know what to do with you, they just think, ‘Oh, right, well we’ll delay it a little bit longer until she hits eighteen and then we’ll stick her straight into the adult services’, but by that time, for me, it was too late because I’d already spiralled that far down. My depression were taking over and I were really vulnerable. I were struggling to, like, cope looking after my son.
I got into a really abusive relationship, I got with a man who was extremely controlling and vindictive and manipulative. I were like a shadow. I weren’t … I weren’t me at all. And I couldn’t see it… couldn’t see it. It took a year for me to even see that it was wrong what he was doing to me.
Again, I looked for support where I know I can get it with Sheffield Futures and it was actually a youth worker, here, that supported me to be strong enough to walk away from that relationship and get out of it and realise that that’s not where I needed to be and that wasn’t doing me any good.
I didn’t personally have a social worker, but my son did, and my son’s social worker didn’t know that I was even under care of the mental health team, I had to tell her that. And she should know that because I’m looking after a child and she could’ve supported me with that, because they’re not just there to support the child, they’re there to support you.
None of the services actually communicate with each other, I think that is probably the worst part about it all. It can be quite hard for young people, well just people in general, if they’re having to relay one story to one person, the same story, then, to the next person, and then to the next person, to the next person. It’s like right hand doesn’t know what left hand’s doing.
Young people, at the end of the day, they’re learning, y’know, every day is a learning curve for them, and I think that they need that support to find the right way to go in their life and what they want to do and where they want to be, and I think it takes, sometimes, the right support from the right people to make sure they can actually do that.
No matter what happens in your life you can always turn it round and you can come out a stronger person for it. My job has helped that because it’s given me a purpose and it’s something that I absolutely love with all my heart, something that I’m so passionate about and something that I enjoy so much that I don’t know where I’d be without it.
Stories of Change is a collaborative project between Sheffield First Partnership’s Better Connected Programme, the University of Sheffield, local artists, and people of Sheffield; it is investigating how public services can be better connected to the actual needs of people who use them. By bringing together people from different communities and age groups, this project will help to frame an overall picture of how different kinds of crises might complicate the connection between people and public services.