An innovative project which supports young victims of sexual exploitation has won the London Safeguarding Children Award.
Merton Safeguarding Children Board’s Promote and Protect Young People initiative helped to improve the co-ordination of a range of specialist services to support victims of sexual exploitation and young people at risk. This reduced the number of young people who ran away from home or care; increased school attendance and helped victims to start to come to terms with what had happened to them and begin their recovery.
The charity Barnardo’s provided tailored support to victims of sexual exploitation as well as training to raise awareness among frontline professionals. The project also broke patterns of behaviour by perpetrators and disrupted organised gangs which groom and exploit young people.
The London Safeguarding Children Award showcases fresh ideas and best practice to improve child protection in the capital. Local authorities, health workers and the police nominated examples of their work, including projects with other agencies and charities.
The winner was announced and presented with their award at the London Safeguarding Children Board’s annual conference today (9 December).
The judging panel were Cheryl Coppell, Chair of the London Safeguarding Children Board, Amanda Edwards, Deputy Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence and Sue Woolmore, Chair of the Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Board Chairs.
Cheryl Coppell said: “The standard of entries was exceptionally strong this year, and choosing a winner was a tough decision.
"Our five finalists are hugely varied projects, dealing with extremely complex issues such as gang involvement, domestic violence, chronic neglect and high risk families.
"Each project is making a real difference to the lives of local children and families, and the strength of our shortlist gives a good indication of the huge range of work that local safeguarding partnerships are involved in.
“Our winning project works to support young people at risk of sexual exploitation, a particularly shocking form of abuse that has a devastating impact on children.
"The recent report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner highlights just how much work is still needed to tackle this issue across the country, but Merton’s work is a timely reminder of the progress that can be made when partners come together to tackle this issue in a joined up way.
“I would like to congratulate all the shortlisted entries and hope their projects will encourage teamwork and learning between safeguarding children boards and all the agencies they work with.
“This pioneering award highlights innovative ways to help protect the most vulnerable young people in the capital. It aims to recognise frontline professionals who do a very difficult job but are incredibly dedicated to safeguarding children at risk of harm.”
The four other shortlisted entries for the London Safeguarding Children Award are:
- Young people involved in gangs are being offered a choice – to cut their ties with gangs and receive support to become an upstanding member of the community or face a range of enforcement options. The Your Choice team in Westminster helps to stop young people on the periphery of gangs from being drawn in further and also works with neighbouring boroughs to prevent cross-border gang violence.
- A project which works with the perpetrators of domestic violence has helped them to change their behaviour as well as supporting their partners and children. The Domestic Violence Intervention Project in Hackney aims to break the cycle of abuse and reduce the risk of young victims developing long term mental health issues, addiction and replicating abusive relationships when they become adults.
- A training programme has been set up to help social workers to support some of the most vulnerable families in Ealing. The Helping Families programme is designed for professionals working with parents who are facing a number of issues which may include isolation, substance misuse and difficult relationships which could mean their children are at risk of being taken into care.
- An initiative to pinpoint the causes of neglectful parenting and the harm it does to children has led to a more focused approach to improve the care of young people. The Hounslow Quality of Care Assessment cuts through the chaos surrounding families with multiple needs and has led to specific ways to improve their daily lives and guide frontline workers through care proceedings.