Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people

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Safeguarding Children and Young People in Licensed Places: A Partnership Approach

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This blog was written by Julie Hague, Licensing Manager, Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board

In 2005, the Government included child protection as a statutory duty in licensing reform. This gave LSCB’s and licensed business operators a shared responsibility to safeguard children and young people from “physical, psychological and moral harm”[1], under the Licensing Act 2003. Sheffield was excited, we saw this as a golden opportunity to promote the safeguarding agenda across licensed and wider communities, to work with the people who are managing businesses where children and young people go. So the local authority commissioned the Licensing Project - as a temporary measure - to explore the value of child protection services working directly with local businesses and I have been working as the Licensing Manager for the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board ever since. It’s been an interesting and challenging journey, working with various trades (hotels, pubs, night clubs, sex entertainment venues, takeaways, shopping malls, leisure and sports venues, theatres and more). Our shared responsibilities under the legislation brought us together and drive us towards the same goal: safer environments for children and young people who live, work, perform, resort, travel, or socialise there.

One of the initial challenges for us was how to develop safeguarding awareness materials for so many different settings, because the risks and contexts are so diverse! The risks at a night club, for example, are different to those at a shopping mall and different again to those at a cinema or hotel. To address this, we decided to develop a range of bespoke training materials and guidance with the trades; I say with, because consultation with the trades has been key to our learning and to the effectiveness of the training we provide. By working with the trades, we have learned to produce bespoke content and adapt learning styles so that the materials are in a practical and relevant format for the learners. Drivers who have attended the taxi training course say:

Definitely something to be trained on

“Eye opening, informative and really beneficial”

“It was a great session full of information and realistic scenarios to help guide us in real life when we work as drivers”

“Important part of the job”

“Made me aware of serious situations such as child exploitation, assault and how to look for hidden signs so that it can be reported to the authorities.”

Another challenge was how to reach people working in the licensed trades – they often don’t work office hours, so flexibility, along with visibility, is important; it won’t work if we sit behind our desks - people are often apprehensive about discussing or reporting safeguarding concerns, so it’s crucial to offer an accessible service to support businesses in their safeguarding duties. Visiting the trades in their own environment, builds trust and helps our understanding of their trade. Through this approach, we have improved the reporting of safeguarding concerns from the trades. For example, we have been contacted by pub managers who are concerned about children in the locality and we have received reports from hotel staff and the taxi trade leading to arrests.

In 2006, the value of this approach was recognised nationally, when the Licensing Project received a Community Care award for innovation. The project went on to receive further awards from the National Working Group Network for Tackling Child Sexual in Exploitation, for developing and piloting the ‘Say Something If You See Something’ training resource for hotel staff along with a South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner award and other awards for the impact of the partnership work.

When resources are scarce, partnership becomes increasingly important and sustainability depends upon a cost-effective model. In Sheffield we have around 2,000 licensed premises and over 3,000 licensed taxi drivers, so to recognise and respond to risk-environments, we need as many safeguarding eyes and ears as possible. As the single Licensing Manager for safeguarding, I work closely with enforcement teams including police, trading standards, food hygiene, licensing authority and health and safety officers, who have all attended safeguarding training and are proactive in monitoring the places they visit and reporting safeguarding concerns. For example, we have received information from food hygiene inspectors who have found mattresses secreted in purpose built areas in cellars, and information from the police about children being taken into night clubs.

When possible, we work in partnership with the licensed operator to improve risk management within their environment and this might involve setting a multi-agency action plan with clear objectives and timescales, or agreeing a safeguarding risk management plan so that a child can be involved in work or performance with extra safeguarding measures in place; but when a partnership approach is not a safe or realistic option, we make use of our multi-agency partnerships and our regulatory powers under the Licensing Act 2003 to tackle problem places. For example, we will initiate, or support another agency with disruption tactics, or make an application to review the operator’s license, which can have a reputational and financial impact on the business, or even result in closure. For example, an unlicensed shisha lounge identified as high risk was closed using a Stop Notice issued by colleagues in the local authority Planning Service.

Another advantage of working with our local business community is that we have been able to reach ethnic minority groups through our training sessions to deliver safeguarding messages that are relevant to people not just in their role as traders, but as parents/carers and members of their own neighbourhoods and communities. This has resulted in open conversations with members of the Pakistani and Muslim communities about child abuse, exploitation and forced marriage.

Having seen the benefits of safeguarding children and young people in the context of these environments, we engage with both licensed and unlicensed trades including gambling/gaming venues, body modification, shisha lounges, food outlets, ‘head shops’, performing arts and other settings providing them with good practice guidance and risk management advice to promote the safeguarding agenda. We are open to working with all trades and we encourage our partners - children, business operators, enforcement officers - to keep talking to us so that we can review our approach, revise our materials and make places safer for children and young people.

[1] Government guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003

Posted: 15 Aug 2018

Author: Delphine Peace

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