Changing the narrative of exploitation
Exploitation doesn't stop in a pandemic. Caitlin, a support worker for young people who are at risk of or being exploited, tells us how she continues to fight for those who are often just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Stop and search
One of my young people just had everything against him. The first lockdown he was getting stopped and searched sometimes five times a day. It was just crazy. He went through a court hearing. But we got him a great solicitor and the case was dropped.
learning difficulties and exploitation
He's got really severe processing and language difficulties. I was the one that noticed it when I first met him. I spoke to the social worker who said "No, I don’t agree. He can have a conversation. There's no issues".
His mum was pushing for support for years. We then gave her a platform and in the past few weeks we’ve had a diagnosis. His levels of understanding are severely low. This increases risk of exploitation, impacts his understanding in college, affects his ability to consent.
Realising he’s having difficulties and addressing those difficulties has been a huge achievement for him. He’s handled it all really well. But he’s still being exploited, threatened, assaulted. And we need to help him see it for what it is.
Running to CCTV
Over lockdown, I've noticed an increased risk of violence in my cases. Some of the boys used to say "oh there’s threats". But now there are knives being used.
One of my young people went to prison for carrying a knife. He had told me for months "I’m not safe in this area, that’s why I carry". He was chased by five other boys who had a knife so he ran towards police officers at a train station screaming for help.
increase in violence in lockdown
Young people know all the CCTV points in the area – that’s where they run to. Because they feel safer.
Imagine having that mindset, in a state of constant survival mode.
They're so on edge when you’re around them, its really sad. They’ll literally say, "if I run off, it’s not because I don’t want to be seen with you, it’s just someone might have seen me and I don’t know who they are and I just get so on edge".
Wrong place, wrong time
This young person is caught up in county lines. He’s been through a lot of trauma. When he was first put into custody and released, we got him out of the area and into a hotel for the weekend. Those people were still looking for him and this would give him space to think.
In the end, because of the lack of services, he went back to stay with his mum. But the same thing happened again. Because he was on bail, he went to prison.
But he was just walking to the shops.
He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was in November so the second lockdown. Since then, I’ve had one assault on one of my young people. But it’s the calm before the storm. You know when it’s quiet and they’re not asking for help, they’re trying to deal with it on their own.
call for support
Our support workers like Caitlin fight to change the narrative of exploitation. We work so exploited children are seen as victims, not criminals. So young people have someone they trust to turn to when they're ready to escape. And so those who have been exploited don't fall back into the same traps.
But we need your help.
The pandemic has left many young people isolated and at great risk of being exploited. But we help them find the strength to overcome their difficulties.
We let them know we're thinking of them. Whether it's a phone call, a gift, or just a text to check how they are.
Join us as we fight for their hope, their ambitions, and their whole generation.