A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber looks at the recent Child Sexual Exploitation scandals and what youth workers are doing about it and whether they have the support and backing they need.
How we protect children and young people has, for both good and bad reasons, yet again been prominent in the news this week.
At the start of the week, in response to the growing numbers of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) victims coming to light across the county, the Government announced they want to teach children and young people about healthy relationships and ‘consent’ before they become sexually active, to give them a ‘better understanding of the society around them so they can make informed choices and stay safe’. The following day, the President of the International Cycling Union, Brain Cookson, commenting on a long awaited report that indicated doping was potentially becoming more susceptible in junior racing, suggesting that subjecting young riders to take performance enhancing drugs is “nothing short of child abuse” and needs to be both investigated and stopped. Both examples demonstrate the broad knowledge necessary to effectively educate and advise young people and remind us all that CSE isn’t the only challenge we face.
By midweek, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw, suggested that social workers and managers “do not always get the support and recognition they deserve”. An online petition asked David Cameron to “support social workers not imprison them” and now has over 10,000 signatures. Worryingly, views on society and sadly social workers aren’t valued as much as Jeremy Clarkson it seems!
The petition was actually a response to the Prime Minister’s proposal announced last week, to introduce tougher sanctions against public sector workers who “wilfully neglect” those at risk of CSE in order to end the “walk on by culture” that he feels has become a feature of recent scandals. Whilst wilful neglect can never be tolerated, if the Prime Minister’s proposal includes all public sector workers this could have profound implications for South Yorkshire Police as it was revealed today that the BBC have discovered that the police knew about hundreds of victims in Sheffield but took no action. Sadly this is not so surprising after what was uncovered in Rotherham and a concern is that the public become desensitised to these revelations as they seem to now be a regular and in some cases a weekly occurrence. Overall, the challenge remains the same; how do we continue to support and educate young people when sometimes it can feel that we work in a sector lacking support? In December, the Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber hosted a CSE workshop.
One of the outcomes was an awareness that those involved in this work need support too. This support takes many forms but includes opportunities to talk and develop a common language, learn from each other, share good practice and develop new practices. This still remains an aim for the Unit and is a vital reminder that the work we do with other practitioners is just as valuable as the delivery to young people.