Protecting older children from sexual exploitation – “It Does Not Stop Because You Turn 18”

NWG Network has launched a new report and resource designed to ensure vulnerable young people continue to receive the support they need when they turn 18.

Reports have shown that this milestone birthday can be a difficult time for many young people in need of any kind of support from authorities, whether that be social care, police, the health service or voluntary sector.

Whilst there are some protocols in place for dealing with the transition from children’s services to adult services this support varies significantly from one geographical area to another.

In a new report published today the NWG Network has flagged this transition period as a time when young people could be particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The report outlines the problems that exist and looks in detail at what professionals involved in the safeguarding of children can do in the lead-up to them turning 18.

The charity has also launched a new benchmarking tool regarding the national issues regarding supporting and safeguarding 16-18-year olds, as it has been recognised that this period can be a time of great change for young people leaving school and entering a new phase of their lives.

Steve Baguley, who has led on the work for the charity, said: “For many of these young people they can find themselves in the frustrating situation of having had quite intensive help and support up until this point, only to find that when they turn 18 this all falls away.

“You often hear about a ‘cliff edge’ of support. One day it’s there, the next it’s not. Clearly, there is not a lot of difference between being 17 and 364 days and 18. Nothing happens overnight to make all your difficulties and issues disappear.

“Lots of studies have been done which highlight this problem but what our work aims to do is look at what professionals can do to address it, and ensure they are supported in their work.

“I have been all over the country discussing this issue and have been impressed with how positively areas have responded, with a number looking to develop improved transition practice and services. We know that they are keen to ensure this transition period is as smooth as possible and the sharing of practice and learning will enable this”

The benchmarking tool covers a number of issues that have been identified across the country regarding supporting and safeguarding 16 to 18-year-olds including the transition into adult services. It has been developed following extensive consultation with NWG’s

members who represent staff in a wide range of professions that engage with children and young people, including teachers, social workers and police officers, and includes links to a wide range of supportive resources.

An electronic working group was set up to facilitate professionals sharing their experiences. The findings have been used to pull together the benchmarking tool and develop a training package to support practitioners with transition.

The full report is available here and members can download the benchmarking tools here.