Date: Oct 2015 – Jun 2016

Research Team: Dr Jane Dodsworth and Dr Penny Sorensen

Funder: Norfolk Constabulary and Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board

Context

There has been much recent research on child sexual exploitation (CSE), in particular the paradigm shift to thinking of those involved as victims of abuse rather than criminals, and the need for professionals to recognise the early warning signs and potential routes into sexual exploitation for this vulnerable group of young people. Whilst there is some evidence nationally of increased awareness and improved practice amongst key agencies, recent reports on CSE in several large cities in the UK indicate there are still gaps in awareness of the early warning signs and risks to young people of becoming sexually exploited, a lack of professional curiosity and insufficient service provision for this vulnerable group. It is therefore crucial that these issues are further explore d from the perspectives and experiences of the multi-agency professionals working with these young people.

Aims

To evaluate, from the perspectives of multi-agency safeguarding professionals, what works well, what works less well and what might be needed to improve service provision.

Methods

A qualitative approach was taken to ensure that the findings were grounded in the experiences and expertise of the professionals working with CSE. 17 interviews were been undertaken with Heads of Service/ Safeguarding Leads for the key agencies and a further 6 with members of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub team (MASH). Six focus groups were also held to elicit wider views. Data was coded and analysed.

Findings

Participants felt that there were some barriers impeding effective working together.

These included:

  • A lack of resources
  •  A lack of clarity about the differences between CSE and CSA which caused confusion
  • Gaps in the amount of shared responsibility/passing cases on rather than working alongside another agency/lack of feedback from other agencies
  • Gaps in information-sharing
  • The priority given to CSE differs between agencies -so some lack of congruence occurs
  • A lack of consultation with young people and their parents/carers about what they want/need

Several key factors that facilitated effective working together were identified by participants.

These included:

  • Actively shared responsibility
  • Appropriate information sharing
  • Strong support and supervision; peer supervision
  • An acknowledgement of the potential impact on professionals’ personal lives
  • The opportunity to meet and make links with professionals from other agencies during multi-agency training or through co-location
  • That CSE is seen as a priority by the NSCB and the CSE subgroup and MASE are seen as centres of expertise and coordination of knowledge and strategy

Overall a sense of commitment to working in the best interests of children and young people at risk of CSE was evident amongst participants, as was a sense of the importance of effective multi-agency working.

Impact

The findings were presented at the NSCB’s CSE Conference Mind the Gap in 2016 and at the NSCB CSE subgroup.

Publications

A report on the findings was be published in Julye 2016.  An examination of multi-agency working with children and young people at risk of and experiencing sexual exploitation from the perspectives of the key safeguarding agencies.

 Journal articles are also planned.