Kylie*, age 13, was frequently absent from school and known to be sexually active with much older boys. School-Home Support practitioner, Pat, was able to support Kylie to think carefully about the choices and decisions she was making, and how the friendship groups she had chosen might impact her education and future. At the same time, Pat worked with Kylie’s mum to help her understand the potential risks to her daughter through gang affiliation and the unsafe use of social media.
Children and young people who are not engaged with their education are at risk of becoming involved in drinking, drugs, and other risky behaviours, Gang affiliation and under age sexual activity are common pathways for disengaged young people, and many such behaviours carry the risk of the young person falling prey to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Through providing holistic support to young people and their families to re-engage them with their education, School-Home Support has recognised the need to be more proactive in raising awareness of CSE amongst both young people and their parents.
Now, thanks to funding from the Pilgrim Trust, Progress Foundation and Clifford Chance, School-Home Support is running a two year pilot project in Barking & Dagenham, working specifically with families of girls like Kylie who are considered to be at risk of teen pregnancy and Child Sexual Exploitation.
Lauren*, aged 15, was also referred to the project. Lauren is a very vulnerable young woman, believing everything people tell her. She is very much a ‘follower’, wanting to please everyone. Lauren is being supported to consider her personal safety, positive and negative relationships, and future aspirations. Lauren’s mum is also being supported to understand the risks to her daughter’s safety, appropriate boundaries and how she can support her daughter’s education.
The two-year pilot project has been underway for just one year. Next year, the project will
- continue to provide high intensity support to a small caseload of girls/young women like Kylie and Lauren, who are identified as being at risk
- work with parents to increase parental confidence around issues such as setting boundaries and discussing healthy relationships with their daughters
- work with the wider school community (with a particular focus on engaging parents) to raise awareness and understanding of risks related to teen pregnancy/ CSE, including signs to look out for and what to do
- develop organisational expertise around CSE, including developing tools and resources to be shared more widely.
Thanks to the Pilgrim Trust, Progress Foundation and Clifford Chance, Kylie, Lauren and other young women now understand how to keep themselves safe from Child Sexual Exploitation – and awareness of the issue is now growing amongst young people, families and teachers in Barking & Dagenham.
If you have questions or concerns about CSE with respect to a young person you care for you might want to consider SHS Membership for regular safeguarding updates and access to our peer support forum. Membership is free – click here for more details.
*Names have been changed.