New system to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation 29 Mar 2015

This week, a report has been published by the University of Bedfordshire into a new system for tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) at root. In theory this should significantly reduce the risk of organised paedophilia across the country.

The system, called Families and Communities Against Sexual Exploitation (FCASE) is a multiagency approach led by the child welfare charity Barnardo’s, in cooperation with amongst other agencies, the police and social services. Over 2500 people working with children were trained while the study was focused on three geographical areas and looked after over 250 vulnerable children.

Going through the report, the language is geared firmly toward the professional working in the field. This blog summarises the FCASE project.

Early intervention

The aim of FCASE is to prevention. Vulnerable children and families were identified and approached to keep them out of trouble.

A key factor in this was Barnardo’s role. Its keyworkers were on the frontline in the project, talking to and relating with families. Families gained trust and good relations with the keyworkers – one mother said she felt as if she was talking to her best friend and that she could tell them anything.

Another family had a lot of distrust in the police, but in engaging with the system in this way began to feel that the police were on their side, and started talking to the police about their worries.

Children who had already been abused yet were on the verge of being abused again learned that the abuse wasn’t their fault. Looking back 30 odd years to when it happened to me in the 1980’s, I still have trouble believing that the sexual abuse I received wasn’t my fault. Such early engagement can help heal lifelong wounds.

Family education and relations

Adolescents think they are adults as soon as their hormones kick in. If there are problems at home they will seek solace among their social circles. This is where paedophiles lurk, both online and offline in the real world.

FCASE spends eight weeks working with adults and children in those troubled families, working on conflict resolution within those families, and showing both the teenagers and adults how to spot when a paedophile is grooming. In a number of cases, families didn’t even realise that their child was being groomed even as it was happening. This was a bit of a shock, and on spotting it the families took action to prevent anything serious happening.

Teenagers will whinge about Big Brother even before they read Orwell’s classic novel. However, monitoring their online and social media presence is a key action all parents should do to avoid grooming from taking place. Regular check ins with their kids at all times of the day is something the more troubled families didn’t do, and this changed too.

Community events

57 community events were held to engage community groups and specific communities to help raise awareness of grooming and sexual exploitation. This included forced marriage within certain ethnic communities, but also got people thinking about children they knew.

Professionals’ education

As part of the process, professionals who worked with children in healthcare, police, social care and a number of other disciplines were trained as well. By law any professional who worries for the welfare of the child in any way should report it. The training however taught them how to spot the signs of CSE, and gave them a specific set of resources for reporting it.

Conclusions

The report concluded that FCASE was a resounding success, and prevented a large number of children from being abused. Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan said of the pilot, “Keeping children safe and preventing abuse before it occurs has to be our overriding priority. Everyone has a role in achieving this and it is vital that families and communities are kept engaged and informed.”

Ultimately, such work is necessary given the scandals that have repeatedly made the media recently. Engaging families and communities from the outset is key to protecting children from losing their childhood.

In my view, anything that is well thought and carefully implemented such as this should be welcomed. This needs to be rolled out nationwide as soon as feasible to prevent more children and families suffering as so many have over the years.

To speak in confidence with Stephanie Prior, head of child abuse claims at Osbornes Solicitors you can call on
020 7485 8811 or e-mail stephanieprior@osbornes.net

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