Local Charity Committed to Transforming Young Lives
Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound, is expanding its programme of inclusive youth activities and therapies as part of its commitment to supporting children and young people to move forward positively with their lives.
Last year, Safe and Sound supported a record 343 children and young people aged eight and above who had been victims of or at risk of child exploitation including online grooming sexual exploitation, County Lines, trafficking, modern slavery and radicalisation.
The charity also supported 40 families whose lives had been affected by exploitation and a further 77 families were supported through the pilot year of Family Group Conferencing which is a new service in the city to help families stay together with support from their wider family.
Figures released this week also reveal that nearly 30% of the children and young people supported by the charity have learning disabilities.
As well as specialist 121 and group support, young people directly targeted by perpetrators and a growing number of siblings whose family live has been affected by exploitation have taken part in a wide range of positive and therapeutic activities.
The growing programme of youth activities has included sport and creative activities as well as cultural and educational trips which, in school holidays, are run in conjunction with the Government-funded HAF project to help families with the rising cost of living.
Furthermore, the charity has recently launched a fortnightly youth club; lunchtime sessions at several local schools and continues to engage with young people with evening outreach projects in Derby city and South Derbyshire every week.
Therapeutic services have also been expanded including person-centred creative art therapy to help them rediscover their confidence, re-establish their self worth and re-connect with those around them by formulating health relationships with other people.
Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison explained: “Our workload increases year on year both with young people directly affected by exploitation as well as the wider family.
“Although our primary focus is to ensure young people are safe from exploitation and work with them to recognise and come to terms with their experiences, we have a growing emphasis on organising positive activities to build their self confidence and esteem to ensure they can move forward with their lives.
“It is equally as important to support the wider family who have been affected by exploitation – particularly with siblings to reduce their own vulnerabilities to grooming and exploitation.
“This work is particularly important for the young people and young adults with learning disabilities who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“These young people or three or four times more likely to be targeted by perpetrators both online and in person for many reasons. Young people with learning disabilities often find it difficult to make friends of their own age and spend more time online where grooming and exploitation is rife.
“We are therefore ensuring that the activities we organise are fully inclusive to give all children, young people and young adults the opportunity to participate and enjoy.
“Our team are doing an amazing job to organise our own activities and to link up with the other fantastic young people focused charities and organisations to share resources, facilities and opportunities.
“As the demand for our services continues to grow, we are committed to finding new and innovative ways to transform young lives so that they can move into adulthood as strong, confident people rather than being defined by what they have experienced in their youth.”
The importance of youth activities was highlighted by the mother of a 12-year-old boy from Derby.
She said: “My son has a EHCP and has hidden learning difficulties and complex needs. He has experienced bullying in his local community and been groomed online making the world he experienced very small and reduced to his bedroom.
“He really struggles with socialising and with relationships, especially with peers. He could not string two words together when in contact with new people, lacked confidence and simply couldn’t speak to young people his own age.
“He has been attending the Safe and Sound weekly table tennis club for six months and has really benefitted from this support.
“He has very slowly grown in confidence and maturity and this activity, in tandem with 1:1 support from a mentor also provided by Safe and Sound, has given him the focus he needs.
“This support and his development also helped him to attend his new college placement with more confidence and he is slowly but surely going from strength to strength after the positive outcomes and experiences he has had with this group activity.”
For more information about the work of Safe and Sound and how to support them, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk.