THE stresses and strains of having a family member die of cancer or suffer serious long term illness can lead to some young people being sexually exploited, a Gwent charity manager has warned.
Jean Edmunds, project manager with Gwent Cancer Support Young Persons’ Project (CHYPS), said the emotional trauma and family upheaval can cause children and young people to feel isolated and unloved.
“We see cases where children are being sexually exploited and it is down to them needing love,” said Mrs Edmunds.
“For instance, if someone has passed away, the family may be in disarray, and you see some young people succumbing to coping mechanisms that can involve drink, drugs, sex – a lot of it is down to delayed grief.”
Most of those it helps are not in such extreme situations, but Mrs Edmunds said there can be serious consequences for some.
“We also see cases where young people have been given ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) or even gone to prison, and elements of the situations they have got themselves into have been down to delayed grief,” she said.
“The strains that illness and death can place upon families and individual family members can be huge.”
Gwent Cancer Support runs CHYPS, based at County Hospital in Griffithstown.
It has just secured £250,000 through the Big Lottery People and Places programme to continue the project for three years.
During this time, it aims to help 400 children and young people.
CHYPS offers young people – the age range is currently 11to 21 – the opportunity to talk to trained staff and volunteers about how they feel about their family situation, their worries about the person who is ill, their sadness about those who have died and the effect on other members of the family.
Its volunteers see people at the CHYPS project base at County Hospital, where it offers counselling and complementary therapies.
Community venues are hired to host sessions, or home visits are made.
People can self-refer, but referrals also come through the NHS, bereavement charity CRUSE, Macmillan Cancer Support, and even the prison service.
“CHYPS has been providing cancer support for children since 2001, and we’ve widened the scope to take in long term conditions and do a lot more work with families,” said Mrs Edmunds.
“We need more volunteers at the moment.
“It’s challenging, but very rewarding.”
n CHYPS runs a 24-hour support line. You can call 01495 760066, text 07719 436270 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Mrs Edmunds on 01495 768735, or e-mail CHYPS@sky.com