Established in 1881, The Children’s Society has from the outset worked with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.
During the past 25 years, we’ve perhaps become best known for our work with runaways, but - as our article on young carers shows - we do much more than that.
Read on to find out more.
Children at risk of sexual exploitation
Our Streetwise programme has supported all of the 14 young girls at the centre of police investigations in Coventry, since the discovery of organised child sexual exploitation in the area last year.
Streetwise has also reached 400 children and young people (a more than tenfold increase on last year thanks to additional funding) through 100 awareness-raising sessions, and over 100 professionals.
Children in care
At our programme in Lancashire, referrals to our services from foster care increased by 40%.
A total of 175 children in care have been placed on our careers scheme and 58% are now either in education or employment. Almost half have special education needs and/or a disability, and are given a dedicated support volunteer throughout their placement.
At The Children’s Society’s LEAP programme in Leeds, our HEART service provided advocacy support to 12 children/young people and their families, helping them to get vital support related to their immigration circumstances.
We achieved extremely positive results: two of the families were granted leave to remain following a lengthy wait, full of uncertainty and high emotion. Such a service reflects the value of long-term relationships, where families have felt supported throughout. The service kept parents informed about their rights and supported them to make good decisions.
A key to success was working with a number of different agencies such as children’s centres, legal representatives, social workers and schools, to ensure that children’s best interests were taken into account at all times.
Our SCARPA programme in Newcastle, which works with young runaways, found that 70% of the children they worked with either stopped going missing or significantly reduced the number of occasions that they went missing. About 60% of young people said they felt better about themselves as a result of our working with them on the issues they had.
When asked if they would recommend SCARPA to a friend, 93% said yes.
Nick (see next page) is one of the young people referred to SCARPA.
Who we help
At the end of March this year 23,673 children had accessed support through our children’s centres and we have worked with 6,520 of those children on at least five occasions.
And, during the course of 2012/2013 we supported 6,005 children and young people through our services.
Here our work is split between girls and boys, mainly over the age of 11, and many of the young people we supported were in care, a refugee, disabled or at risk on the streets.
‘I was 11 when I first ran away. My home life is quite complicated: I’ve got five brothers and three sisters, but my mum and dad aren’t together any more. Everyone in our house is always arguing and fighting. After one really bad argument I got upset and ran away. After that it became a bit of a habit, so I just kept running away, the police would find me and bring me back home.
‘One time I went to the beach and slept there. I was woken up by the police and taken home, I was 12.
‘I get lonely at my mum’s. My big sister’s in care so I’m the eldest and that feels like a lot of pressure. I feel guilty when I run away, especially about my little brothers and sister. I came back one night after saying I was going to kill myself and she was so upset.
‘When I was running away I’d get into a lot of trouble. When the police picked me up I’d get angry with them and they’d put me in a cell, I’ve been in cells about seven or eight times. I also started stealing and I ended up in court. I don’t ever want to do that again, it’s scary in a cell, and very lonely.
‘I was referred to SCARPA by my social worker. A project worker came to see me and asked if I’d like to be involved. SCARPA has helped me a lot with my anger issues. They’ve given me a way to calm down, to stop being naughty and given me everything I needed to stop running away.
‘Now if I’m upset or I need advice I can ring up SCARPA or send them an email. I’ve found ways to calm myself down.
‘I play with my friends, or I go to my bedroom to watch some telly or play on my Xbox. Or I talk to my dad and let out my feelings.
‘SCARPA also helped me get back into school; I’m getting the education I need. I’ve just got a B in my ICT exam; I’ve learned that if I stick at school I can get good grades. Before I was thinking about killing myself, but now I want to get a good job and have a better life.’