For CSE day 2019, Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace) has published a booklet, compiled and produced by parents affected by child exploitation. This booklet came about when one particular parent decided to collate the voices of other parents to reflect parents’ shared experiences. In a blog released on Pace’s website, this parent explains their motivation for creating the publication and what changes they wish to see in how we respond to exploitation. The blog and publication can be accessed here.
A number of research evaluations commissioned by Pace highlight that parents whose children have been affected by CSE often experience suspicion and even blaming attitudes from statutory services. Professionals may engage with parents in a manner that portrays them, implicitly or explicitly, as failed carers (Palmer and Jenkins, 2013; Shuker and Ackerley, 2017). The blog written by a parent for Pace illustrates the impact of these attitudes on parents.
Pace is also currently carrying out a research project in partnership with DMSS to further explore the response from social care and the impact it is having on the safeguarding of their child. This report is due for launch in Autumn 2019. Alongside this, it will be sharing information and evidence regarding its Relational Safeguarding approach which supports the delivery of contextual safeguarding. This Relational Safeguarding approach is based on more than 23 years’ experience of working directly alongside families affected by exploitation. This holistic approach recognises parents and carers as lead safeguarding partners, and the impact of exploitation on the wider family. It works to best effect when specialist workers in multi-agency teams provide direct support to families to increase protective factors around the child, whilst working together with families and agencies to disrupt and convict the perpetrators who are responsible.
Our current child protection system has been designed to assess parents’ capacity to safeguard their children within the family environment, with particular emphasis on safeguarding younger children. The principles of Contextual Safeguarding acknowledge the limitations of this system in responding to extra-familial harm experienced by young people as they transition into adolescence and recognise that parents can have limited control or influence over harm that can happen to their children outside of the home (Firmin, 2017).
In a contextual approach to safeguarding, parents are involved as partners in safeguarding children outside of the home and are supported to understand and recognise indicators of extra-familial harm. Safety planning in responses to extra-familial risk should be informed by the needs of the whole family and not just focused on the individual child (Scott and McNeish, 2017). In the blog written for Pace, the parent advocates for having ‘a response system in place that enhances the family unit, draws on the strengths of the family bonds and strengthens each family member in their safeguarding role.’
While many factors associated to extra-familial harm are beyond the direct control of parents or carers, strengthening their understanding, safeguarding capacity and resilience can enhance the family as a protective structure around the young person and, overtime, may weaken the control and power those who are perpetrating harm (Beckett et al., 2017). As the same parent reminds us in their blog for Pace, ‘CSE only needs a child, an access point and a lack of adult or authority to stop it.’ A contextual response to extra-familial harm both enhances the family as a protective structure around the child and extends safeguarding capacity beyond parents and carers to those who are responsible for the social contexts in which young people spend their time (such as schools, parks, public transport or local shops). When fully implemented, a contextual safeguarding system seeks to measure outcomes in relation to the increased safety of these contexts and not just individual attitude and behaviour change within the family.
The Contextual Safeguarding Implementation Toolkit shares resources for working with families, including guidance and tools for identifying extra-familial risks that might impact a child and family and examples of interventions. We will continue to capture and share learning from working with parents and carers to address extra-familial harm as we begin to embed Contextual Safeguarding across various sites in the UK.
Beckett, Holmes and Walker (2017) Child sexual exploitation. Definition & Guide for Professionals: Extended text.
Pace (2014) The Relational Safeguarding Model
Pace Parent Publication (2019) The Cry of the Brave and Broken Hearted Parent
Scott and McNeish (2017) Supporting Parents of Sexually Exploited Young People: An Evidence Review