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Young research advisors share coffee, cake and comics with social workers to highlight messages about child sexual exploitation

Young researchers with social workers

Thu 9th November, 2017

The University of Bedfordshire’s tea-trolley stopped off at Hackney children’s social care offices, offering free cake and coffee to social workers and sharing messages about working with those affected by child sexual exploitation.

Staff and young research advisors from the ‘International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking’ at the University handed out ten comics on postcards that bring to life the good and bad experiences of young people who have encountered professionals because of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

In recent years, a series of research publications and public enquiries have revealed the impact of professionals’ failure to identify and support young people who were being sexually exploited. However, research by the International Centre shows that, alongside these failures, young people also highlight positive experiences that others can learn from.

Members of the University’s Young Researchers Advisory Panel said: “These ten comics are based on direct research with young people, and each highlights a different principle of how to work with young people affected by CSE. We’ve been baking cakes and giving out free drinks today because what social workers and other professionals do is really important, and we want to share these research messages in a positive way.”

Hackney social workers

The postcard images were created by Una Comics. The artist Una, who worked with the research team and young people to illustrate the ten principles, said: “Comics often create a lasting impression, and I hope some of these images stay with professionals and help them to integrate these principles into their work with young people.”

The Deputy Mayor of Hackney Cllr Anntoinette Bramble said ‘We are really pleased to welcome researchers and young people into the office today to share their comics with our social work teams. It’s great to have a chance for young people, academics and social workers to come together and talk about such important issues.”

The event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, which encourages academics to find creative ways to engage audiences with their research.

Notes to editors:

  1. The postcards have been produced as part of the Alexi Project. The Alexi Project was designed to rapidly increase the capacity and coverage of voluntary sector CSE services across England, and has been evaluated by the International Centre. The Alexi Project included a strand of work focused on promoting the participation of children and young people, which was run by staff in the International Centre. For more information please visit the website
  2. The postcards are based on a forthcoming paper synthesising the findings of International Centre research and participatory projects on CSE that explicitly include the views of young people. Within this paper, ten principles have been identified that summarise effective support for young people who have experienced CSE, from the perspective of young people themselves. The paper will be published at in due course.
  3. The postcards will be available to view at on 8th November 2017. The ten principles are:
    • We want and need services
    • Show us you care
    • Give us time
    • Share information about us, and with us, in a responsible and sensitive way
    • Treat us with respect and give us choices
    • Offer us opportunities to develop as people
    • Give us a voice
    • Don’t discriminate
    • Try and make sure we see and talk to the same person
    • Stay hopeful – change is possible
  4. The Young Researcher’s Advisory Panel is made up of young people who are committed to developing research that improves outcomes for children and young people. The group represents a diversity of views and perspectives and is united by a commitment to the prevention of sexual violence.  Members work in a professional capacity to support the work of the centre and improve engagement of children and young people and wider communities in the centre’s research and dissemination. The panel were consulted on the principles paper, developed thumbnail sketches and ideas for the comics and have been part of designing the dissemination activities for the postcards.
  5. The International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire is committed to increasing understanding of, and improving responses to, child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking in local, national and international contexts. We achieve this through: academic rigour and research excellence; collaborative and partnership based approaches to applied social research; meaningful and ethical engagement of children and young people, active dissemination and evidence-based engagement in theory, policy and practice. The University of Bedfordshire has been awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the International Centre's 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.
  6. Una is an artist, academic and comics creator. Her self-published graphic narratives have explored disability, psychosis, political activism and violence against women and girls. She lives in Yorkshire. Becoming Unbecoming, her first graphic novel, explores what it means to grow up a girl in the atmosphere of shame, misogyny, violence and silence of West Yorkshire between 1975 and 1981. It was published by Myriad in September 2015.
  7. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.
  8. The 2017 ESRC Festival of Social Science takes place from 4-11 November with over 300 free events across the UK. The festival, now in its fifteenth year, is designed to promote awareness of social science research by enabling scientists to engage with the public through debates, talks, workshops, seminars, film screenings, theatre, exhibitions and much more. The festival is a unique opportunity for people to meet with some of the country’s leading social scientists and to discover more about the role research plays in their everyday life. A full programme is available at Join the discussion on Twitter using #esrcfestival. Logos for the festival can be downloaded from the ESRC website.

Bedfordshire University

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