Supporting girls at risk of child sexual exploitation
St Christopher’s Safe Steps children’s home in West London cares for girls aged 12 to 17 who are at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or other serious community threats.
Child sexual exploitation and the failure to protect young people has been an issue of growing national concern. This remains a pressing problem for children’s services as they seek to find a long-term solution – young people were sent to homes far away from their local areas or placed in secure accommodation for their own protection. They were not taught how to spot the signs they were being exploited and lost the positive links they had with family, friends and education in their own communities.
So we came up with a solution: Safe Steps. A residential home for girls at risk, based in the local community.
St Christopher’s has developed new best practice for the service based around the ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ principles of social pedagogy. We start by getting to know the young person so that they trust us enough to talk about their past experiences. Then, we work with them to show them what is healthy in a relationship, and teach them the skills they need to keep themselves safe. Therapeutic support is available and we have links with specialist groups in the local area who can advise on any particular issues.
Because placements are in their own communities, the girls can maintain and repair the positive relationships in their lives. They leave our care with a better understanding of sexual health, relationships and how they deserve to be treated.
'My experience at the home was a rollercoaster ride. But I enjoyed it very much and I often look back and am overwhelmed by the love, care and support I received.'
Thank you to the Department for Education Innovation Programme for funding our initial pilot and to our partners from the West London Alliance and North London Children’s Efficiency Programme for their continued support.
What do professionals say about Safe Steps?
‘Social pedagogy authorised staff to give priority to creating positive relationships with the young women. Evidence suggests that this was welcomed by staff and that they do this well.’
‘Young people benefit from highly personalised and nurturing care that enables them to make significant and positive changes in their lives.’
‘They have changed her thought processes. No running away for four months and she thinks about the future now.’