Reflecting on Operation Shelter and Transition

Good afternoon colleagues, as I look out of our office window in Derby at the overcast summer weather I have been reflecting on the main news event of last week emanating from Newcastle. The conviction of a significant number of sex offenders and the whole magnitude of the joint Police and Social Care investigation is both astonishing and very disturbing, much of the investigation has not been fully reported in the press who have focused mainly on Operation Shelter and the convictions of 18 perpetrators of CSE.

As an organisation, we were aware of Operation Sanctuary and the breadth of the investigation quite early on, many will not be aware for how long this investigation has lasted and the significant changes that organisations working in the region have had to implement to meet the needs of the many victims. Chief Constable Paul Ashman was right when he made the statement at the press conference following the guilty verdicts that “the sexual exploitation of vulnerable people is in my opinion the challenge of our generation”.

A key word that he used was “vulnerable”, at any point in our life time we can all become “vulnerable” due to a variety of situations, some out of our control whilst some maybe of our own volition. However, as children go through the transition from secondary school to the world of post 16 education and training the vulnerability of this cohort does increase. When children are at secondary school there are far more support services available to them and more enquiring adult eyes to see if there is anything going wrong or other identifying factors that would indicate that “all is not well”.

This is simply not the case for when children make the transition from secondary school. Post 16 provision is rarely more than 3 full days and some training providers only offer two days and some even less. So, what happens to our children in these circumstances when they may have little to fully occupy their enquiring minds, in many cases they are fine and do well at college or in apprenticeships but for those who are vulnerable or at risk of becoming vulnerable these can be very concerning times. A question to ask is who are monitoring or identifying this group of children and could they access support if they needed it?

This is an area that the NWG have been concerned about and for the past 6 months our post 16 consultant Steve Baguley and other colleagues from the CSE Response Unit have been visiting many local authorities around the country asking what post 16 support is available as well questions about the transition to adult’s services.

Following these meetings, the NWG have developed a 16-18 benchmarking tool for local authorities, LSCB’s, Safeguarding Adults Boards and all their partners to fully assess where they think they are with these transition processes. It is a very comprehensive yet easy tool to use and will help greatly to ensure that better planning and service delivery can be achieved to support this vulnerable age group.

Now the Newcastle convictions are in the public realm and the vulnerability issues of these children has been highlighted by Chief Constable Ashman we feel that this would be an appropriate time to reflect on how we support children in this age group, we would like all local authorities and their partners to use the assessment tool in their respective regions and measure how their services are supporting the 16-18 age group, a question also to ask is how are your adult social care teams working to support those who need support transitioning towards adult services. The link to the assessment tool is HERE

The tool has been developed in consultation with many colleagues from around the country and we would like to publicly thank them all for their help with the development of this resource.

We would also like to hear from local authorities who have used the tool to see how their experience of this assessment has been and has it informed a change in practice or potentially the way services are commissioned, what has been the response from colleagues from adult social care?

Plese do keep in touch and feedback any of your comments directly to me.

NOTE: The 16-18 years Benchmarking Tool has been developed by the NWG to support local areas to examine how they are supporting and safeguarding this age group. The tool contains links to some helpful resources and the contact name of the NWG specialist team member who can support local areas with any identified actions.

THIS IS ONLY CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN PDF FORMAT A Full editable tool will be available in the Autumn

Should you have any questions regarding the use of this tool, please contact Phil Ashford on 01332 585371 or

Kev Murphy                                                                                                                                                                       Education and Communities Lead,                                                                                                                               The CSE Response Unit,                                                                                                                                                   NWG Network                                                                                                                                                     01332 585371