Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound, has secured two major grants to enable it to support and protect more children, young people and families across the county.
Firstly, Safe and Sound has received three-year funding from Children in Need for a specialist domestic abuse worker who will support young people across the city and county. The charity has also received a grant from Derbyshire County Council to fund a worker to specifically support young people in the Buxton area who are at risk of or victims of child exploitation including online grooming, sexual exploitation, County Lines drugs gangs, modern slavery, trafficking and radicalisation.
The application to Children in Need was made because of the proven link between domestic abuse and violence in the home and the increased vulnerability of young people to grooming and child exploitation by perpetrators outside the family.
Furthermore, many young people who Safe and Sound already support have divulged that such issues at home and their feelings of isolation and despair were a contributing factor to them being groomed and exploited both online and in person.
The specialist domestic abuse worker at Safe and Sound will provide a wide range of support to young people who have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse and violence and who are now at risk or victims of exploitation. This will include 121 and group support, positive activities and therapies to boost confidence, resilience and self-esteem as well as advocacy and guidance through any safeguarding or court processes.
Safe and Sound supports and protects young people across the county but applied to Derbyshire County Council for funding support to enable a worker to be based in the Buxton area to cope with increased demand in the north of the county.
Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison explained that different forms of exploitation were linked and that children and young people at risk of different forms of exploitation share the same vulnerabilities. Children who are sexually exploited are trafficked across different geographical areas. Girls who are radicalised are often sexually exploited or subject of an arranged marriage.
Online grooming accounted for over 80% of sexual exploitation last year in Derbyshire. Isolated, lonely, and homeless young people get involved in gangs and are often forced to commit acts of criminality/drug trafficking. Mental health and well-being are significant issues at county and city level. Self-harm is significantly worse than national average as is alcohol related harm and prevalence of children’s mental and emotional disorders is higher than national averages.
She said: “There are indisputable links between domestic abuse and violence and child exploitation as we know the methods of control using violence and coercion follow similar patterns. Young people and families are referred to us from a number of partner agencies and by families themselves and a large number of them cite domestic abuse ‘historically’ or currently as a factor in a young person’s increased vulnerability to exploitation. We also know that adolescents who have witnessed or suffered domestic abuse and violence suffer co-occurring issues such as suicide, being involved in knife crime, gangs and becoming victims of county lines and sexual exploitation. Learning from our young people and families is a key aspect of our service and they have told us about their challenges including living in poor home conditions, witnessing domestic abuse, low esteem, isolation, mental health and low overall wellbeing.”
Mrs Harrison continued: “We have worked across Derby and parts of Derbyshire for 20 years and focus on prevention through awareness and outreach, support at the earliest opportunity and recovery through youth, transition and therapy programmes. Demand for our services to support children, young people and families affected by exploitation has increased over 100% since 2019 and, for the first time ever, we have a waiting list which is not ideal.
We have been mindful that, due to the geographical expanse of the county, we needed to have a specialist worker dedicated to supporting young people and their families in the far north of the county. She concluded: “Thanks to the support from Children in Need and Derbyshire County Council, we are now able to address two specific gaps in the support that is so badly needed for children, young people and their families in our local communities.
Our child or young person-centred work is all about empowering them to build on their strengths and develop their skills, networks and resilience to thrive independently and move forward with their lives.
Last year, Safe and Sound supported a record 343 children and young people who had been victims of or at risk of child exploitation. The charity largely works with 7-18 year olds but includes up to 25 if there are special educational needs and or disability (SEND) issues or children leaving care.
The charity works with boys and girls. Around 30% of the young people have SEND and 29% did not identify as White British. Workers also regularly support young people who identify as gay, non-binary and trans.
For more information about the work of Safe and Sound and to access resources and
support, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk