Grooming, rape, trafficking, or the many other ways children are being sexually abused, the subject of child sexual exploitation – or CSE as it is known by professionals in the field – is in the headlines with depressing regularity. With the frequency in which these topics are making their way into the media, we look at how we can help young girls to be safer but to also improve their long term prospects by supporting them to attend school and encourage them to engage with their education.
High profile child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Rotherham and Rochdale in recent years have highlighted the scale of the problem and lack of effective prevention methods for young people, especially teenage girls.
We approached the Pilgrim Trust with a project aiming to test the effectiveness of their holistic family-centered approach when tackling CSE. Since 2016 the Pilgrim Trust has partnered with SHS to fund a project supporting girls in Barking & Dagenham who have been identified as being vulnerable to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and teenage pregnancy. The project not only helps the girls to be safer but also improves their long term prospects by supporting them to attend school and engage with their education.
SHS specialist practitioner Marilyn works with three partner schools to identify the girls most vulnerable to CSE. Indicators that a girl might be at risk include poor attendance if they are believed to be sexually active with older boyfriend/s, possible gang affiliation and inappropriate use of social media. Through a combination of individual support and group work with the girls and their families, Marilyn addresses these issues and other possible harming situations that are faced by the girls.
The impact the piolet project has had
At the end of the 2019/20 autumn term, Marlilyn has already supported 12 young people and her caseload will continue to grow over the next two terms. The project has also been beneficial to SHS staff development with over 50 practitioners across the country benefiting from resources being produced on CSE and safeguarding. The Pilgrim Trust’s support of the project has allowed us to develop our organisational expertise, in addition to giving some of the most vulnerable teenagers the chance of a brighter future.
The pilot project produced some really encouraging results: all the girls supported who were monitored for low self-esteem showed a positive improvement. The average improvement in attendance was 10.6%, and the highest was 32.9%, equivalent to an extra 61 days in school! The success of the pilot project has continued with 20 girls receiving support by the end of the 2018/19 academic year.