The NWG Network celebrates its 8th official birthday on Saturday 7th April, before this date we were an informal group who met 3 or 4 times a year. With Professor Jenny Pearce in the Chair the network, known then as The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, the informal group formally constituted the organisation and from there – as they say – the rest is history! The growth has been incredible and even today still feels like an extended family.
Over the past couple of years, we have seen progression in the way professionals have begun to target child sexual exploitation. It is a complex issue and overlaps with many other areas of criminality. For example, we are now assisting local areas to use the learning from cases of child sexual exploitation to trafficking, modern slavery and county lines (drug movement across borders), as the grooming processes are similar, but the criminality varies across sexual assaults, rape, drug trafficking, slavery and sex trafficking.
We have seen a significant shift in the attitude of workforces in their willingness to get this right when they recognise a young person as being vulnerable or involved and have been pleased to support more than 20,000 professionals through more than 2000 enquiries made for assistance since April 2016. We have been working closely with many local authorities and children’s services who invite us to explore avenues for improvement
Some of the work we have been involved in has covered health professionals, and the development of the Seen and Heard (Children’s Society and NHS) online training, Not just a Thought (Young People engagement) which is work carried out by NHS England and Salford University looking at engaging young people.
Over the past two years we have benefitted from the police having regional co-ordinators for CSE to help move disruption, prevention and prosecution, we have seen the development of the Centre of Expertise to look at what works when tackling the issues of CSE and abuse, and of course the work that we as the NWG Network have been doing since 2011 and especially since April 2015 when we began hosting the National Child Response Unit Response Unit
An example of this work could be a local area, who began working with the NWG to develop a local action plans, this was then further developed by the regional and subsequently informed the national action plan and we are now speaking at different events where the action plan has been disseminated back to other local areas for implementation.
Over the past year the NWG has been developing further informed learning and resources on engaging with parents, the issues connected with 16 to 18yr olds and their transition into adult services, trauma informed practice, engaging with learning difficulties, built and building benchmarking self-assessment audit tools for local areas to explore if there are areas they can improve their practice. We are looking forward to launching our Augmented Reality Toolkit to assist educational providers and have recently secured funding from Sport England to develop work on Safeguarding in Sport. Three pilot sites are well on their way with trialling our new assessment tool which replaced the former risk assessment tool we recognised had become outdated with all the learning from the last few years and recent research
Of course, one of our biggest engagements is with our members who have made an absolute outstanding success of our National CSE Awareness Day launched 4 years ago in 2015. We really thought it might take years to get off the ground properly, but the members are so engaged with the organisations, that this day was a resounding success immediately, events happen nationally, across schools, communities, services and projects. We have seen some amazing ways the members have been promoting a ‘Zero tolerance attitude to sexual abuse of our children’ and this year our day looks to beat all other days too. With this years Thunderclap hitting a social reach of 5,499,743 and 910 individual supporters. Events were held up and down the country, we had 20 mile walks, stalls, week long CSE classes being taught, conferences and much more!
Personally I, and I know my team feel the same, have been overwhelmed at the way professionals have engaged with us, their willingness to do the right thing, explore ways of getting their response better and better. I know we haven’t cracked it all yet, but if I reflect back to 1999 and how this was viewed then, the missed opportunities to help young people raped and abused, and our network today of 14,000+ professional dissemination points of information across the UK, then I also think we need to say thank you those who are doing so much, in such innovative ways today.