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Hand in Hand evaluation

Hand in Hand works with children and young people in North Yorkshire and the City of York who are at risk of, or are currently being, sexually or criminally exploited, and those that are repeatedly reported missing. Here's an evaluation of the service between October 2020 and March 2021.

Number of pages:

38 pages

Date published:

What is Hand in Hand?

boy in hood talks to a practitioner with a clipboard

What is Hand in Hand?

Hand in Hand works with children and young people aged between 10 and 18 who are at risk of, or are currently being, sexually or criminally exploited, and those that are repeatedly reported missing.

In recent times, we've seen an increase in referrals for those that have already been sexually abused or exploited, and for considerably younger children and young people. We've also seen more young people being groomed through social media and gaming platforms.

Anyone can make a referral to the service, but referrals mainly come from social care. Young people are usually contacted within 24 hours of the referral being received.

helping children at risk of exploitation

The service provides a single point of contact (SPOC) Case Management service, which offers consistent, accurate and timely support, advice and signposting to other support services, where appropriate.

The service works in partnership with other agencies through joint visits, multi-agency teams and meetings, and presence on various boards and panels. Practitioners are able to discuss methods of disrupting exploitation in the local area, ensure effective information sharing and risk management, and advocate on behalf of young people to ensure their voices are heard.

It’s my role to go in and provide support and a listening ear, but also provide education around exploitation, such as grooming and healthy relationships. I support the child in their understanding of what’s happened and why they’re at risk.

Delivery includes: 

  • Triage and short-term or early intervention support throughout North Yorkshire and the City of York
  • Intensive longer-term support, including targeted specialist support to high, medium and standard risk cases throughout North Yorkshire and the City of York.

The service supports young people holistically in a young person centred way, focusing on ensuring that they feel safe in all aspects of their life. Practitioners work jointly with the young person to help them identify areas of strength and areas that they feel that they need extra support with. This is then used to inform an ‘action plan’, which is also led by the young person.

Outside of this, practitioners complete psychoeducational sessions around what child exploitation is and grooming behaviours of abusive people. This helps young people to identify unhealthy relationships, and to work through their thoughts and feelings about their relationships, whilst ensuring that they are safe.

The service is also in the process of developing a participation group, which will be maintained throughout the life of the contract to undertake consultation on service design and delivery, enabling continuous service improvement and development.

girls smiles while talking to practitioner

She could be
the angel on
my shoulder
She could be the angel on my shoulder


Impact of Hand in Hand

The service has had a positive impact on young people, communities and systems.

Young people have seen improvement in their:

  • Mental health and well-being
  • Awareness, knowledge and understanding 
  • Confidence and self-esteem 
  • Physical health and access to positive activities
young woman focused looking on running track ahead

impact of hand in hand

Consequently, this has led to: 

  • Young people accessing their rights, entitlements and appropriate support/services 
  • A reduction in missing episodes, arrests and offences 
  • Young people demonstrating improved self-advocacy/the ability to be independent 
  • Young people engaging with and maintaining education 
  • Reduced risk factors and improved protective factors 
  • Positive outcomes in criminal justice procedures and processes 
  • Young people experiencing improved relationships 
  • Young people expressing a more positive outlook

For partners, they have seen improved capacity, awareness and understanding, which has had a positive impact on their responses to young people, as well as organisational policies and processes.

What did we learn?

There a number of critical success factors, which have facilitated the positive impacts that the service has had on young people, communities and systems. These are: 

  • A service and approach that is flexible, confidential and young person led 
  • Recruiting workers with the right qualities to build a trusted relationship with the young person 
  • The ability to take a different approach and develop a different relationship to statutory services
  • Longer term funding 
  • Effective partnership working

Many of the challenges the service has faced have also presented the service with new opportunities to explore. In addition, workers, partners and young people have directly highlighted a number of opportunities to improve the service. Some of these areas would require additional funding. Opportunities are as follows:

  • Recruitment of more workers to allow existing workers to explore and support with systems change work delivered by other programmes within The Children’s Society 
  • Recruitment of workers that are reflective of the diversity of the young people with whom we work 
  • Recruitment of a counsellor trained in offering trauma informed support to young people who have experienced sexual abuse 
  • Resource to support young people to engage with new hobbies and interests, as a means of disrupting exploitation 
  • Exploring whether it is possible for the team as a whole to be more engaged with the triage and allocation process 
  • Considering how best to introduce a peer case discussion space for existing cases  Improving awareness of the service and the offer through updating and sharing materials, and developing more of an online presence 
  • Introducing additional training to improve workers’ confidence 
  • Implementing training that supports workers to work more inclusively 
  • Considering whether there are opportunities to build on existing strong partnerships to identify spaces where staff can come together or meet young people 
  • Delivering support through different channels, such as a text service or youth group

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