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New co-produced community project to launch with government support

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St Christopher’s Fellowship has been awarded £391,000 in funding from the Home Office Trusted Relationships Fund designed to support young people at risk of Serious Youth Violence and other threats in the community.

In partnership with Ealing Council, we will be setting up a project to work with hundreds of young people across the borough who are at the highest risk of exploitation, whether this is through gang involvement, child sexual exploitation or county lines. The funding from the Trusted Relationships programme is one of a number of projects supported by the Home Office that aims to build relationships between professionals and young people at risk. The grant for £1,509,880 will cover a number of initiatives within Ealing, with £391,000 specifically for St Christopher’s role.

Serious Youth Violence is increasing, particularly across the capital. Research has shown that those who live in poverty, are more at risk of social isolation and exploitation and that  young people who are deemed to be at risk are less likely to be able to identify a professional they trust in order to make a disclosure of abuse.

The idea underpinning the project is making sure that young people at risk or on the edge of care have a trusted adult in their lives, who is a consistent figure that they feel comfortable to talk to, even when they feel they have nowhere else to turn. Using our head, heart, hands approach that is informed by social pedagogy, we want to build strong relationships with young people so they feel able to open up and tell us what is happening in their lives. We believe that with accessible support young people will be more likely to engage and disclose abuse. The service will build on work already taking place across the borough, expanding the number of young people that can be supported.

Our own research and experience, as well as feedback from young people, highlights exclusion from school as a key factor in increasing their vulnerability. When they are away from their peers and the routine of school, they are more at risk of being targeted by perpetrators in the community. With this in mind, the new project will also include preventative work by Ealing in schools to raise awareness of local issues with young people aged 10-17.

A multidisciplinary team of family reunification support staff, youth workers and qualified clinical practitioners from St Christopher’s, Ealing and other project partners will provide 24/7 outreach to young people face to face, over the phone, and via text and instant messaging. If a young person reaches out to a member of the team late at night someone will go out to meet them, taking an innovative, psychologically-informed approach out into the community.

Two youth apprentices will be hired by Ealing to support and inform the participation work, which will ensure co-production is fully embedded. By co-producing the project, young people will recognise the service as something for their needs that they have helped to develop.

'You just need one good person in your life to tell you how it is and you're cool'
Young person from Ealing

Funding will last for just over two years and the project’s impact will be measured through preventing exclusions, reducing Serious Youth Violence, and increased disclosures of abuse.

This new project links with two key aims of St Christopher’s strategy 2018-23more excellent homes and services and lifelong learning and thriving. This outreach support will help us to reach more young people and teach how to keep themselves safe, now and in the future, during sessions in schools and with youth workers.

St Christopher’s has wide-ranging expertise supporting young people at risk. We have previously received Department for Education Innovation Programme funding for a specialist children’s home for girls at risk of sexual exploitation, which is currently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. We also have a number of years’ experience working with young people exploited through county lines, particularly in our Runaways service, who provide Return Home Interviews after young people have been missing.

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, Ealing Council’s deputy leader and member for schools and children’s services, said: “It is exciting that it will be the young people themselves, who are after all the experts on what they face, who will be instrumental in providing detail to inform the service design.

“This funding will allow us to build upon good work that is already being delivered to support young girls at risk from exploitation and violence. Working with St Christopher’s will allow for a 24/7 responsive service and for young people to build relationships with adults they can trust to provide support, guidance and advice.”

Geneva Ellis, Director of Corporate Services said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to expand our work with young people at risk and introduce preventative services that will change the lives of young people across West London. It is brilliant to see the government investing money in this key area of work.

“We already have a strong partnership with Ealing Council so I am delighted we have the opportunity to build on this even further and trial new ways of working. We look forward to being able to share learning that the whole sector can benefit from and allow models to be implemented across the capital and beyond.”

​To announce the news we featured on BBC Radio London to share how we will be spending the money. You can listen back to the segment here from about 1 hour 10 minutes in.