Summary of report content
Healthwatch Essex undertook research into how organisations work together to tackle child criminal exploitation after finding this as a theme in previous work they had undertaken on the health sand social care experiences of children and young people. They spoke to 15 children and young people (CYP) aged 13-18, affected by or identified as being ‘at risk’ of child criminal exploitation (CCE), residing in areas of recognised deprivation and35 professionals with experience of working to tackle CCE across the education, youth work, social care, community safety, local authority, and criminal justice sectors.
Professionals disagreed on the extent of CCE in Essex, with some claiming services are overwhelmed and others believing the issue is exaggerated through ‘fearmongering’. Overall, professionals agreed that it was important to consider exploited CYP as victims, as opposed to perpetrators, but were also aware there is some way to go before practice catches up with such a perspective. Professionals found it difficult to identify the most suitable services to work with or refer CYP to, and opinion varied on how to judge the efficacy of services.
Education professionals are committed to being part of the solution in safeguarding CYP from CCE but feel overwhelmed by the severity of issues they encounter and the non-formalised expectation to deliver an increasing number of interventions themselves. When education professionals did make referrals, they noticed response times had become slower following funding cuts.
Parents of CYP affected by CCE require support for safeguarding their children as well as coping with their own experiences of trauma. Work is underway in Essex to support parents affected by CCE, but professionals wanted to see this work expanded to encourage joint service working with CYP and their families.
A gap exists within the health and social sector regarding work around CCE. Professionals in our study acknowledged the need for joint working, though we only learned of one piece of work that took place in a health setting. This is not to say that no other work with the health system is taking place, but highlights there is a capacity and need to further engage the health system in working to overcome CCE.
The report contains 7 recommendations to tackle the problems outlined in the report.