Young people affected by CSE are being placed in high-cost or secure accommodation that is not necessarily meeting their needs. In many cases the accommodation sourced is a significant distance from the child’s home area. Additionally, the move can be disruptive, with young people seeing the move as punitive and leaving them unable to communicate effectively with families or professionals. Furthermore, some accommodation is high-cost, which is a substantial drain on local authority resources; resources that could be utilised more effectively to remedy the issues of CSE.
The project was designed and implemented in three phases: 1) a programme of action research to understand more about the problem identified, especially the journeys of young people affected; 2) co-design of a new pilot service, involving young people, parents or carers, social workers and key agencies; and 3) implementation of the pilot service to work across Wigan and Rochdale, and a cost-benefit analysis of its impact.
The pilot service, ACT (Achieving Change Together) worked with young people at risk of CSE, with key workers, co-working with children’s social workers and working non-standard hours to better meet the needs of young people.
In the initial months of operation, ACT have provided intensive, early support to a number of young people, with a range of complex difficulties. This has resulted in reduced escalations and no placements were used in the first eight months of the program. Furthermore, both Wigan and Rochdale have reduced the caseloads of their children’s social workers to improve the quality of relationships with families and enable more strengths based, young person-centred ways of working.
A combined action research and co-production approach to service development was effective in achieving wider ownership of new ways of working. This ensured a more determined uptake from families and at-risk children. By reducing caseloads, it allowed social workers to develop strong relationships, but this meant that caseloads were a third of other social workers in Wigan. Moving forward work will need to be conducted on the sustainability of this model.
ACT’s future is to expand across other Greater Manchester authorities, sharing our learning and developing an approach to complex safeguarding that is responsive, flexible and provides the best outcomes for young people at risk of exploitation.
The University of Bedfordshire International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking & NatCen Social Research
Greater Manchester Phoenix CSE Project and the Children’s Society and Research in Practice