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Charity Spotlight: Embrace

By Gemma Raw

Embrace provides support for children and families who have been victims of serious crime. Can you give us a breakdown of the types of support that you offer? Our young victim care officers provide a personalised and dedicated service and will work with the child, their parents/guardians and relevant frontline professionals, following a referral, to identify the best support package for them. Our ‘high volume’ support tends to be provision of uplifting experiences – Christmas gifts or funded theme park days or similar – or practical support, for example funded uniform/sports kit or hobbies for those from low income households. For the most serious cases, or for those areas where we are commissioned and funded, we can provide access to counselling or another specialist therapy. 

You were originally set up as a police response to raise funds for child victims of crime, but over the last 20 years you’ve evolved into a fully functioning children’s charity. How are you funded and is your work specific to any set locations in the UK?

Embrace is a relatively small national charity, so it’s important that we can prioritise our funds and ensure that they are being used for children who otherwise cannot access that support locally. We are primarily funded through small grant funds, corporate, group and individual fundraising. It’s our ambition to co-ordinate child victim care services in all parts of the UK. This requires our services to be commissioned and funded, for example via Police and Crime Commissioners. Where this is happening – currently in some London boroughs, in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – we can deliver our fullest range of support packages, tailored to the individual child and family. As an example, in Cambridgeshire, we provide no-wait access to CBT counselling and other specialist therapies (play, art, equine). We are always looking for new fundraising opportunities! 

You work with child victims of a wide range of crimes, but you’ve recently reported an acute rise in referrals specifically for those affected by sexual abuse. Why do you think there’s been such a sharp increase in need for support for this specific crime over the past 12 months?

In the past year, we have seen an 8% increase in referrals for sexual violence in all its forms, and a more than doubling of requests for counselling in relation to those. Some of this, we know, is because our commissioned services have increased referral pathways – so, aside from traditional police referrals, we will receive referrals in those areas from frontline professionals working in health, social care and education. 

In addition, our popular Dear Santa campaign – which sees strangers purchases requested gifts – received many such referrals. Generally, though, our services can help cater for the complex needs of trauma associated with sexual crime, often complementing other services locally. 

Your work is unique in that you can provide no-wait access to counselling. How are you able to offer this and what do you have available to support those in need?

Embrace has a growing network of associate therapists across the UK who specialise in child therapy, and in managing trauma associated with different crime types. We also partner with Relate and so can, in most instances, find an appropriate match if the child has been identified as suitable for therapy. However, it’s important to underline that we’re a charity and we cannot compensate for the provision of local services. We are a safety net, as opposed to a primary service provider, outside of those areas where we are fully funded. 

You have traditionally received referrals from the police and MASH teams, but you are now expanding your reach to work alongside social work teams. How do you prioritise your cases to ensure that you are focusing upon those in most critical need?

We prioritise those referrals from partner agencies such as the police and Victims Hubs. Each case is triaged for suitability to our service or services. For example, some referrals are not suitable for counselling at that time, but we would seek to offer alternative support. Each case is different and so we spend time working to identify what type of intervention that we can offer may be suitable. 

When you receive referrals, what information are you looking for specifically which would enable you to take on that case? Could you share any advice with our readers who may be interested in making a referral?

Referrals to Embrace are based on consent and can be made through our secure online portal. It is vital, in order to progress, that all referrals made are high quality and contain all requested details. 

In practical terms, that means including relevant personal details and contact numbers, a summary of the case and the type of support sought. We ask those referring to ensure they have completed all sections of the referral form and, for self-referrals, we ask for the details of the police officer or social worker in the case. 

In terms of prioritisation, this depends on the circumstances of the case. For example, we have provided CCTV cameras for a woman and child at risk of domestic abuse when the perpetrator had been released from prison – Embrace stepped in when no one else would. This was organised within 24 hours of the referral. 

Clearly your work is time-limited for all your cases. If a referral is accepted, what can social workers and the child expect in terms of support?

An Embrace worker, usually a Young Victims Care Officer, will make direct contact with the professional. This is to discuss the case further and identify, collaboratively, what package of support may be suitable. Some areas of support can be instant – practical support for example. Counselling requires time to find a suitable match and is time limited to 6 – 12 sessions. Other support, such as our annual peer group support trips to Disneyland Paris (for the whole family) are ring-fenced for the most serious of cases, and only take place at certain times of the year.