group of children dressed as boy drummers and girl nursesDuring the 1990s The Children's Society moved into a new era of working for social justice.

This work built upon the experience and understanding gained in the previous twenty years' work on the ground.

Understanding the issues faced by young people enabled The Children's Society to respond to the needs of children and young people more effectively through:

  • new projects
  • lobbying to change legislation and welfare provision
  • allowing young people to speak and act for themselves so they could shape their own lives.

The Children's Society's street work programme in the late 1990s is an example of how practical experience fed into broader campaigning.

The Children's Society's safe-house programme gave it wide experience of young people on the streets. This culminated in a major study in 1999, which called for a nationwide network of safe houses to be set up, and for statutory money to pay for them. The Children's Society's work with young people on the streets also fed into a campaign to decriminalise prostitution for under-18s.

Guided by its experience of young people involved with prostitution, it argued that child prostitution should be seen as a child protection issue, and that police and other agencies should protect children and young people from exploitation.

In 1995 The Children's Society published the first report to highlight child prostitution in this way and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Directors of Social Services responded by making a public commitment to review the way they dealt with these children. The Children's Society continued to highlight the issue in 1997 by holding Britain's first conference on the subject, and publishing a detailed report. This resulted directly in fresh government guidelines in 2000, recommending that the police should treat the children as victims of abuse rather than as perpetrators of crime.