Ambitious strategy ensures children access to sexual exploitation services

Thu 07 July, 2016
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The University of Bedfordshire has launched a new website for The Alexi Project, as part of an ambitious strategy to establish child sexual exploitation (CSE) as an integral part of mainstream safeguarding activity (6th July).

At the heart of The Alexi Project is the Hub and Spoke model, which aims to extend the reach of specialist CSE services across England so that more children are protected from sexual exploitation.

Principal Research Fellow Dr Julie Harris is leading the research team evaluating the Hub and Spoke model at the University’s award-winning International Centre: researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking. She says:

“We know that sexual exploitation affects children in every local area in England, and yet specialist provision has been patchy and there are children needing help who are nowhere near a service that could help them. Within The Alexi Project strategy ‘Hub’ services across England are recruiting and placing ‘Spoke workers’ into new local authorities, towns or rural areas. Spoke workers support young people and share the expertise of the Hub with other agencies in the new area.

"The Alexi Project evaluation will provide the largest data-set yet on how different services are tackling CSE in their localities. There are 16 CSE services taking part and their diversity in terms of size, geography, background and approach to the work presents us with a great opportunity to learn about the landscape of specialist service provision across England, and how effective the Hub and Spoke model is at improving local responses to abuse.”

To coincide with the website launch the research team are also publishing a review of the nature and scope of the participation of young people in child sexual exploitation services. The review is the first publication of the ‘participation strand’ of the Alexi Project, which aims to promote the meaningful involvement of children and young people in their own care, and in service delivery and development.

Dr Isabelle Brodie, author of the review and Senior Research Fellow from the International Centre, says:

“We found that there is a strong commitment to the idea of participative practice in CSE policy and practice, but there has to be congruence between organisational structures and individual practice for this to be effective. Professionals also need to have both a strong knowledge base about the routes into and experience of CSE, and a reflective and critical approach to practice.

"Young people affected by CSE often have considerable knowledge and skill in navigating between services, and they know what is effective. So it is important that their expertise is used to influence practice and policy beyond CSE services.

"Young people have presented evidence in public inquiries and court cases that they have often been ignored or blamed by professionals when trying to report abuse – a reality that sadly is strongly reinforced by the research evidence. However, more positively, the review found that they value the way that CSE services recognise them as individuals, listen and take their views seriously, and provide a flexible and friendly approach.

"There are still big gaps in our knowledge – particularly around how participation takes place in practice, the impact it has, and the involvement groups of young people who are less well represented in CSE services.

"We hope that the ongoing activities of the participation strand of The Alexi Project will begin to fill in some of these gaps.”

Visit The Alexi Project website for more details of the Hub and Spoke evaluation, to view the publications and to read the project blog.

Notes to Editor

  1. The Alexi project
  2. The International Centre: researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking is based at the University of Bedfordshire and won the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2013 for its pioneering research into child sexual exploitation. This prestigious prize is the highest form of national recognition open to higher and further education institutions in the UK
  3. The Alexi Project is being funded by The Child Sexual Exploitation Funders' Alliance (CSEFA). They are a group of charitable funders who are aligning resources in order to bring about a step change in how Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is dealt with across the UK. The Child Sexual Exploitation Funders’ Alliance comprises the following organisations: Barrow Cadbury Trust; Big Lottery Fund; Children in Need; City Bridge Trust; Comic Relief; Esmée Fairbairn Foundation; Lankelly Chase; Northern Rock Foundation; The Blagrave Trust; The Bromley Trust; The Henry Smith Charity and Trust for London
  4. The CSEFA has funded a phased roll-out of the Hub and Spoke model. Phase 1: Three services from January 2014. Phase 2: Five services from January 2015. Phase 3: Eight services from January 2016. Each of the Hub services has between two and five Spoke workers located in a variety of settings (e.g. with the police, in children’s social care or a multi-agency team), and who undertake a combination of direct work with young people, consultancy, and training with local practitioners.


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