Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people

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Taking a contextual approach to preventing Child Sexual Exploitation in West Sussex

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As with many other areas around the country, the West Sussex response to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) remains largely child-centric; with Children’s Social Care and Police often taking the lead.  However, as our knowledge and understanding of the complexities of CSE has grown, and we have learned from our own and others’ serious case reviews, we now acknowledge that prevention is a high priority, arguably as important as reactive intervention with our children and young people.

Considering that CSE can - and does - happen in every community, in every county, up and down the country, the only way to tackle it and other forms of exploitation is by talking about it; debunking myths and helping people and communities to understand that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. We all have a part to play in stopping CSE, and we must work with our communities so that together we can help young people develop the skills they need to be resilient to the risk of abuse. But the responsibility doesn’t end there.  We need communities to help us to identify risky locations, suspect vehicles and potential perpetrators. They are the eyes and ears of an area and their information can speak volumes.

Prevention activity in West Sussex has been developed under the governance of our strategic community safety partnership in collaboration with our District & Borough colleagues.  Last year our Safeguarding Children’s Board acknowledged that traditional child protection practitioners and safeguarding colleagues weren’t best placed to focus on the place-based trends and hotspots that community safety professionals tend to be more familiar with.  District and Borough Councils however are well versed at tackling spatial crime prevention as they are physically sited and working within the very neighbourhoods they serve.  Moreover, local Community Safety Partnerships have a long history; dating back two decades or more, of working in partnership to address the issues that often manifest themselves in crime and disorder.  The development of contextual safeguarding as a recognised concept has further reaffirmed the decision that community safety should lead prevention activity locally.

In West Sussex we began a programme of awareness training back in 2015. Around the same time, Barnardo’s received Home Office funding to develop Nightwatch, and West Sussex was identified as one of the 12 national pilot sites.  Barnardos recognised that those working in the night time economy were in a unique position to help tackle CSE. Today we know that it’s not just a good idea for taxi drivers to be able to spot the signs of CSE, it’s their responsibility.

Under Barnardo’s Nightwatch, night time economy workers receive training and information to help them understand what child sexual exploitation is and what they can do if they or a member of staff see or hear something they believe could be harmful to a child or young person. To instigate the training in West Sussex, we worked with District & Borough licensing and safeguarding teams to pull together a list of target premises. We then considered how best to engage with workers, as it was understood that CSE training might not be their greatest priority, acknowledging also that the subject can be quite distressing to some people. On behalf of the LSCB, contact was made with businesses, inviting them engage in the free training sessions.  We informed premise managers and operators that test purchasing would be instigated locally in the near future therefore businesses would do well to sign up to the training. Taxi drivers were also informed that completion of the CSE training could become part of their licensing conditions and those not engaging would have to pay for sessions when renewing their licenses if they didn’t sign up at this time.  Uptake of the Barnardo’s training was surprisingly high, with brief (60 minute) sessions delivered throughout West Sussex to taxi drivers/operators, hoteliers and providers of short term holiday accommodation.  By the end of 2016 over 60% of the taxi drivers in West Sussex had participated in CSE training and a programme of awareness raising among hotels was well underway.  Both taxi operators and hoteliers were provided with additional information about their legal and corporate social responsibility to engage in this agenda utilising licensing legislation.  We also complemented the Nightwatch training with a series of handbooks, practical guides and pull out leaflets for staff, copies of which can be found within the resources section of the National Working Group for CSE’s website.

An independent evaluation of Barnardo’s Nightwatch, completed by the University of Bedfordshire, reported that the programme far exceeded its targets, and deemed the training effective in raising awareness and confidence among Night-time Economy workers. The evaluation concluded that the programme was a very worthwhile investment, effective and worthy of future replication.  This endorsement enabled us to secure additional partnership funding this year to carry on our awareness raising activity with Barnardos. This has allowed us to think creatively about other training opportunities and has led to all library managers and children’s librarians being trained, along with Business Fire Safety representatives and local school teachers to cite but a few.  Using a contextual safeguarding approach, we are able to plan activity with key industries and help them understand the role they can play in safeguarding young people.  We are particularly focused on working with those premises where we know young people frequent as they can be our eyes and ears.  With the right tools, workers feel empowered to trust their instincts and have confidence to report concerns.  Our training message is simple and clear; if people are concerned, we want to hear from them because sometimes that’s all it takes. A little piece of information from them could help us build a better picture, or to provide us with the missing piece of the jigsaw. 

But our journey is only just beginning…

A variety of  businesses and services including fast-food outlets, accident and emergency departments, doormen and security services, bars and night clubs, bed and breakfasts and community and faith groups are all among those on our radar and will be offered free training this year.

One of the lessons we learnt from our first phase of awareness raising training with hoteliers is that we need to be much more flexible in the way we offer our services to these industries. We cannot and should not expect businesses and community groups to come to us – we need to take our messages out to them in the places they work and meet.  It is not the cheapest or easiest way to work, but we believe it is a worthy investment. 

Author Bio

Claire Clilverd is a senior Community Safety Officer who has developed her specialism in CSE prevention since 2014. She has over 15 years’ experience working in Local Government and has a history working as a crime and disorder analyst, before moving into Community Safety. 

This blog entry was written by, and reflects the views of, the author. If you would like to contact the author, please send your request to Ruth.Atkinson1@beds.ac.uk. 

Posted: 28 Jun 2017

Author: Delphine Peace

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