Posted: 16 January 2015

Supporting the whole squad

At Safeguarding Children At Risk - Prevention and Action (SCARPA) in Newcastle, managers Richard Haigh and Judith Gordon run a programme that supports young people who go missing, and as a result may be at risk of sexual exploitation.

'There have been some fairly shocking headlines around child sexual exploitation recently,' says Richard. 'In a way, the media attention is positive,' he continues. 'As long as we harness the energy that's come about because of these revelations, and use it to help our young people.'

Joining the SCARPA Squad

Thanks to your ongoing support, SCARPA Squad has been doing its positive work for almost four years. It exists for the young people who have been through the SCARPA programme, which involves one-to-one support and informal education on the risks associated with running away from home, including sexual exploitation. 'And of course, we're also here to give emotional support,' smiles programme worker Danielle.

The Squad is for those young people who have come out the other side but want to stay involved and help the charity raise awareness of these issues. 'SCARPA Squad is somewhere we can come and chill and we've made really good friends,' says Anna, 16.

As Anna mentions, the weekly Squad meetings are also a chance for the young men and women to meet others who've been helped by SCARPA. And it's a way for them to stay in touch with the programme workers.

'I was always wary of telling young people "we're not the same as other people who have mucked you about" and the, once they've been through the individual support, showing them the door. It's just not consistent and it's not right,' says Richard.

'I'm completely different now'

Ellie, 18, has been using SCARPA for almost five years, and says that she barely recognises the person she was before. 'I'm completely different now,' she says. 'I'd probably still be in some pretty bad friendship groups if SCARPA hadn't intervened. I'd probably still be running away, too.'

Ellie's outlook on relationships has also changed. 'Sometimes I see stuff on Facebook or I hear stuff from other people and I'm like, "Hang on, your boyfriend drives? Your boyfriend's got a lot of money to spend on you?" now I can see the signs whereas before I might have just been a bit jealous!'

Listen to a SCARPA Squad member share her story
(or listen to the recording on the Soundcloud website)

Looking to the future

After spending time with SCARPA Squad, it's clear that one of the many positive effects of the programme is the friendships that are formed.

'I come back to SCARPA Squad because of the people,' says Becky, 'Knowing that you're not the only one going through a hard time is good. I've made more friends outside, too, because now I can communicate better.'

But as recent media coverage has shown, thousands of vulnerable children are not getting the support they need and are becoming victims of exploitation. Projects like SCARPA are in demand.

To help, donate today.

By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital team
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