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Disrupting Exploitation Programme

The Disrupting Exploitation Programme, funded by National Lottery Community Fund, runs in Greater Manchester, Birmingham and London. We work directly with young people and their parents who are victims of child criminal exploitation. The Programme also works to deliver systems change, intervening to improve the contexts, policies, procedures and attitudes that shape the responses to young people. Here is our annual report, year one and year two evaluations, and the learning report from year three of delivery.

Date published:

The journey so far

The Disrupting Exploitation Programme has utilised the last three years of learning to develop a systemic approach to reduce and end child exploitation. As we enter into phase two, here is a summary of our achievements from phase one.

How does the programme work?

The programme works nationally and regionally and is delivered by a dedicated team of 18 staff. The Programme Manager leads a national delivery team within three local areas (Birmingham, Greater Manchester and London). Each local team comprises a Service Manager, an Insight and Engagement Officer, Disrupting Exploitation caseworkers and a parent worker. In London one of the caseworkers is replaced by a therapist. Our programme components are outlined below:

  • Three multi-disciplinary response teams established in Birmingham, Greater Manchester and London.
  • Each team includes one-to-one caseworkers and intelligence and insight capability.
  • We adopt the principle of generous leadership by sharing insight widely and communicating our learning.
  • The team can accept two different types of referrals: for one-to-one work and for systems change tasks including contextual safeguarding interventions.
  • We support young people to change the system of exploitation through our participation work.
  • The learning from the programme is shared nationally and with our policy and influencing team to inform the external agenda.
  • The Programme is steered and guided by a National Advisory Group, including representation from police, health, government departments and academia.

There are four elements to the programme, which are continually evolving and feeding each other:

  1. High quality one-to-one work with young people and parents
  2. Systems change work
  3. Youth participation and voice
  4. Test and learn

One-to-one work

young boy speaking to practitioner

High quality one-to-one work

Each programme of work is tailored to the young person and includes topics such as knowledge and understanding of exploitation, healthy relationships, safety and family, building confidence, improved well-being and gender norms and expectations.

Our work with young people also includes advocacy and working in a multi-agency way to ensure that all partners are working together to protect young people and see their vulnerability. This is particularly vital when the young person may be forced to commit crimes linked to their exploitation.

Targeted group work

The work with parents ensures parents’ voices are heard and listened to by the professional network, delivering safety planning work with families, and ensuring young people are safeguarded and parental well-being is a priority. The parent workers provide dedicated one-to-one support and also a five week support programme.

The therapeutic part of the programme is trauma informed and uses an integrative model. It is designed to be flexible and creative in approach. The duration of the sessions is aimed at meeting the needs of the young people, giving room for long term therapy or short term if preferred.

Facts and figures


young people have been worked with intensively on a one-to-one basis through the programme


of children and young people feel safer and know more about exploitation


parents have been supported over the course of the programme

young person quote

I feel good because I can say I am safe now. I am not really worrying about it – it’s not taking over everything, panicking and stressing.

Systems change work

The programme is not solely working directly with young people – it’s also about improving the system response to young people to ensure long term change for children who are victims of child exploitation in the future. This work is undertaken in partnership with others, such as police and social services colleagues. It is driven by our commitment to leave a lasting legacy from the programme, both in the areas we directly operate, and more widely through the materials, knowledge and experience we proactive share as our work progresses.

The Programme has developed a systemic theory of change recognising that children and young people exist within a wider environment that influences their safety, successful development and well-being. This includes:

  • Individual level (children, young people and their families)
  • Interpersonal level (interactions and experiences with peers, support providers, school, online or in neighbourhoods)
  • Institutional and policy level (policies, processes and how support agencies work together)
  • Societal level (social norms and ideologies)

Youth participation and voice

Youth participation and voice

Young people are at the heart of this programme. From its inception they were involved in recruitment, and their voices and experience shape the support they receive and our systems change work and priorities. Young people shape our programme at different levels, and over the course of the next year we will focus our participation work on young people leading and influencing the national programme and national systems change agenda.

The Programme, in partnership with the Youth Engagement Team, has recently launched a Youth Voice report into school exclusions.

young people in field sitting side by side in a row looking into distance happy

Test and learn approach

Our test and learn approach gives practitioners on the frontline the coaching, guidance, permission and budget to test and trial new projects. This is designed to incubate potential new services and solutions to some of the systemic issues which young people face.

To date, we have worked on test and learn ideas around:

  • The point of arrest being a potential teachable/reachable moment for young people at risk of exploitation
  • Developing an approach to consider gender and unconscious bias during risk assessments of young people
  • Working with schools to review their exclusions and inclusions policies to disrupt school exclusions

A synthesis of our learning

At the end of our third year of delivering the Disrupting Exploitation Programme we’ve worked with the Dartington Service Design Lab to bring together and share our learning. Please see the learning report for insight into what we’ve gleaned from delivering this this programme.

Download our latest learning report

Further reading

If you'd like more information, read our Year one report executive summary and Year two report executive summary.

Contact information

If you are facing a systemic issue in one of the local areas in which we work (London, Birmingham, Greater Manchester) and would like to work together to disrupt exploitation, please get in touch.

If you're looking to report something that's putting a young person at risk, want to refer a young person, or would like support for a parent or carer, use our referral forms.