Posted: 16 November 2015

Keeping children and teachers aware of sexual exploitation

Our recent appeal is asking for help to double the number of young people we work with in our specialist services across the country.

We wanted to highlight the work of our practitioners working in our child sexual exploitation services.

Sarah Wells is a practitioner in our Lancashire service, Street Safe. She specialises in working with schools to deliver awareness raising sessions.    

Here she answers some of our questions about her work:

What does the Street Safe service do?

We provide training for staff in schools across Lancashire. The training is designed to be flexible and can be done as a whole staff group or small sessions.

We make sure staff understands  how to identify, respond to and support students that could potentially be involved with child sexual exploitation. We also provide the referral information for partners working within the police teams.

Schools are well placed to identify children in need of support so it is vital that they are fully equipped to do this. By working with children everyday they can recognise the signs of exploitation or grooming. Persistent absences and episodes of missing from home or school are strong indicators of wider issues and makes children vulnerable to child sexual exploitation (CSE).

A favourite member of staff at school is a common source of support for children.

We also provide educational sessions for children in school; this can be small groups, whole classes or assemblies. We provide information and support to raise awareness around issues such as child sexual exploitation, healthy relationships, emotional wellbeing and dealing with feelings.

The sessions allow the students time to discuss the content and become familiar with how child sexual exploitation, grooming and unhealthy relationships relate to their lives.

We make sure they understand  how they can protect themselves and others and where to go to get further support if needed.

How do you build a relationship with the young people you support?

By being honest, open and up front about who we are and what we can and cannot do.

We play games and support young people to discuss issues whilst accepting that they can find this emotionally difficult.

We support children to face their feelings and provide supportive advice and guidance on how to deal with them.

What is the goal of your work with a young person?

To support them to become independent, safe and happy individuals with positive goals; we want them to have enough information to make safe choices in life.

What obstacles are there in your work with young people?

Obstacles can be self-esteem, low confidence, peer pressure, inappropriate influential relationships, the Internet and time.

Children experiencing low self-esteem and confidence are very vulnerable to the grooming process as they are already unhappy and in need of positive attention. If someone fulfils that role for them often they will feel duty bound to reciprocate that affection in any way necessary.

Children that lack confidence to complete simple daily tasks would find it impossible to argue with an adult or young person that has some level of control over them. The balance of power is in favour of the perpetrator.

It is therefore really important for us to work on improving their self-confidence and esteem. This way they can learn to judge situations and keep themselves safe.

Do you find the work rewarding?  

Providing information and guidance to young people during the sessions fills me with a sense of satisfaction.

If a young person is identified as needing further support, consent from a parent or carer is required and the whole family then becomes supported. Knowing that you have helped a family that has been dealing with the issue alone for a while is very rewarding.

The family is often very grateful that someone is taking the risk seriously and is willing to work with the young person before the situation escalates. 

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Take action to stop child sexual exploitation

Ask the Government to strengthen the law so that 16 and 17 year olds experiencing sexual exploitation are given protection, get the help they need and access to the justice they deserve.

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Street Safe - Lancashire

Posted: 5 April 2013