An unlikely ally against exploitation
The last year has been tough. There have been added risks and challenges, especially for children affected by exploitation. Caitlin is a support worker for young people who are at high risk of, or already being sexually or criminally exploited. She’s seen more violence, more conflict, difficulties at home. But lockdown has also brought some unexpected opportunities.
Benefits of speakerphone
We’ve seen a lot of disadvantage, poverty and strain on families. Losing jobs or trying to hold one down while looking after a child full-time means many won't be able to give young people the attention they need.
The added stress at home can push children out and towards exploitation. Caitlin tells us how lockdown has shone a light on situations they wouldn't normally see.
benefits of lockdown
'I’ve been put on speakerphone in the middle of pretty bad arguments. It’s not a bad thing at all. It’s an insight into what we wouldn’t usually see. We know more about what’s happening, why a young person feels pushed out to unsafe areas. And we can put support in place.'
By relying on phones, we actually get a glimpse into worlds that were previously hidden. We then work closely with parents to create a support system around the young person, so they have somewhere to turn if they feel able to break away from an exploitative situation.
Power to young people
And there are other ways 'phones have been a bit of a blessing'.
'Some young people I wouldn’t have been able to engage face to face. They don’t want to sit in a café with a practitioner, they’ve got enough going on at the moment. For those affected by exploitation, their lives are quite chaotic and complex.'
'We’re about empowering young people, giving them that choice. If they have any worries, they usually just text me and I’ll follow up with a phone call.'
They do ring me, mostly in times of crisis.
providing basics for exploited children
Parcels in the post
'Because of family breakdowns, a lot of young people I've been supporting have now moved away from home. So, I've sent lots of food parcels and organised warm clothes.'
'One young person was squatting for about a month or two which was really horrible. We finally got him into accommodation but it was really hard because he was over the age of 18, just. Now it’s just making sure he’s got food.'
'We've been sending food parcels to make sure he doesn’t have to worry about where food is coming from and what he has to do to get it.'
parcels in the post
'I turned up to see one young person and he’d cut his hands and didn’t have access to a hot shower. So just getting them even basic first aid stuff like antiseptic wipes, plasters, bottles of water, really simple things just to help them keep clean in some of the conditions they’re in.'
'If a young person has been harmed, kicked out, hasn't got any food, or they’re stressed, I'm that person to say right, what can we do right now to make you feel safe?'
Phones for good
In county lines exploitation, phones are used to control a young person. They tell them where to go, what to do. They are a constant source of anxiety for those being exploited.
But during lockdown our support workers have had to rely on phones much more. Rather than being a hinderance, it has meant more awareness of what's going on in the home and better communication with young people who wouldn't engage face to face. An unlikely ally in the fight against child exploitation.
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.