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South Yorkshire Empower and Protect

Project start date: February 2015

We (Sheffield and South Yorkshire Councils) were awarded £1.2m to develop an evidence based, cost effective sub-regional delivery model for young people experiencing or at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) which would reduce risk and improve outcomes. We successfully demonstrated that CSE affected young people can be safely cared for in their own communities.

Project Summary


In recent years, there has been increased concern about the extent and impact of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, and the failure of public services to protect children and young people. Across South Yorkshire, referrals related to CSE have been increasing year on year for over a decade.


To address this issue we set up a partnership (South Yorkshire Empower and Protect) which included Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham Local Authorities and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust. We worked with VCS partner Catch 22 to enable young people experiencing or at high risk of sexual exploitation to remain safely at home, or in stable foster care in South Yorkshire, rather than being placed in out-of-area or secure accommodation.


For young people already in care, this involved recruitment and training of specialist foster carers, intensive support and therapeutic input to help sustain placements. For young people living at home, we worked with family members to increase their understanding of  CSE, ability to manage risks and provide appropriate care. We worked directly with families, carers, children and young people while at the same time skilling up other professionals to do this work, through modelling, supervision and training. With this workforce development element, we aimed to increase reflective social-work practice based upon relationships rather than process.


This was a very ambitious project and our impact was limited by factors such as the challenge of recruiting foster carers for very complex adolescents and difficulties in fully engaging social workers and managers. We were not sure if there would definitely be cost benefits and we ultimately decided not to continue the project collaboratively beyond March 2017.

Find out more

Project contact details

Please contact the local authority for further detail

Project evaluators

University of Bedfordshire International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence & Trafficking, NatCen Social Research

Project partners

Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham LAs and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Catch22

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