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Safe Choices Northern Ireland

On Tuesday 18 November 2014 the Marshall Independent Inquiry released its report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland.

This is Barnardo's NI response:

Director, Barnardo's NI Lynda Wilson said:

“Barnardo’s welcomes the findings from the Child Exploitation Inquiry Report and the fact it confirms what we know from our specialised service Safe Choices that child sexual exploitation is widespread and growing and is not restricted to children in care.

The findings mirror a shift we have seen over the past three years in the nature of referrals to Safe Choices with more online grooming, a rise in the number non-looked after children so that they now account for two thirds of our service and 20% have some form of disability.

Through our experience of working with children and young people affected by sexual exploitation across the UK we know what works best to address it: sticking with young people, collaboration between agencies, specialist services including specialist fostering, cross departmental working and awareness raising.

We welcome the emphasis in this report to the experiences and views of children and young people and a recognition of the importance of their involvement in designing responses which will meet their needs, they need to know that their voices are being heard and that action is being taken.

We support the Inquiry’s recommendations which centre on education and intervention, collaboration and prosecution. We have been working in partnership with many organisations including the Health and Social Care Board, the Health Trusts, the PSNI, the Safeguarding Board NI and others from the voluntary sector to address these issues and will continue to do so. As the report acknowledges there is still a long way to go to ensure protection for our children and young people from sexual exploitation and there is no silver bullet. Empowering young people through awareness raising and e-safety are two critical elements in helping young people protect themselves as part of an overall strategy.

We have the opportunity to take the recommendations from this report and the lessons learnt from elsewhere to work together to protect our children and young people and ensure more young lives are not jeopardised.”

Barnardo's NI is also part of the CSE Knowledge Transfer Partnership NI and this is their response to Marshall Report:

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership welcomes the publication yesterday of Professor Kathleen Marshalls’ Independent Inquiry Report on CSE in NI. We are pleased to see the issue being highlighted and recognised as a concern in NI. We particularly welcome the recommendations relating to a collective response across agencies in raising awareness, engaging young people and their parents as well as local communities in tackling CSE by supporting vulnerable young people and refocussing endeavours to hold perpetrators accountable.

The KT Partnership is pleased that the report is informed by the voices of children and young people, the experiences of a range of professionals who have been working in the field for many years and research. We await with interest the implementation of Professor Marshall’s recommendations to improve the safeguarding of all children and young people vulnerable to CSE in Northern Ireland, in order to build upon the progress made in the last eighteen months.

For further information about the work of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership please contact Dr Helen Beckett at helen.beckett@beds.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

The Child Sexual Exploitation Knowledge Transfer Partnership NI is made up of a number of statutory and voluntary sector organisations funded under the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency Knowledge Transfer Scheme. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership came together initially to disseminate the learning from the first research study  (Beckett 2011) of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Northern Ireland (NI), with reference to relevant learning from other key research, Inquiries and serious case reviews conducted elsewhere in the UK .

The Partnership is co-chaired by Dr Helen Beckett, now working at the University of Bedfordshire, and Dr Anne Lazenbatt from The Queen’s University of Belfast. It has several strands to its work including engaging with policy makers and practitioners, developing an online Knowledge Hub, facilitating dialogue with service users and practitioners, working with service users to develop awareness raising resources for young people; reviewing the application of the CSE risk assessment tool (piloted in the research) and publishing academic articles. The Partnership has also worked with the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland to develop an agreed definition and set of professional guidance on CSE.

Ends.

Barnardo's NI Safe Choices Service was established in 2004.

Safe Choices works with children and young people who are being sexually exploited, at risk of it, and/or going missing from home.  We offer a service to males and females up to the age of leaving care. The service has bases in Belfast and Antrim. The service accepts referrals from the Belfast, South Eastern, Northern and Southern Trusts and can offer consultation to the Western Trust.

We believe that this work can only be undertaken on a multi-agency basis, therefore Safe Choices works in partnership with the Health and Social Care Trusts, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and with a range of other agencies.

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