Posted: Friday 18th March 2016
I started this week doing a round of welfare calls on behalf of two of my project workers who were on annual leave – what followed an hour spent convincing a 14 year old to stay at his foster placement where he had just packed a bag to leave; getting another worker to drive a hour across Somerset to support a young person who had just been asked to go the police station to answer questions about an allegation of harassment made by an older male we knew had sexually exploited her; and a visit to a young girl and her mum to help them report a man who had messaged her on Facebook asking her to do ‘erotic modelling’ – while I was there she shared that her best friend had told her she had been sexually abused by her step dad.
This, sadly, is a normal day for my project workers at the Barnardo’s BASE Project but as I take time to reflect on it I cannot help to be proud of the last nine months since the West of England CSE Victim Identification and Support Project was set up with the support of PCC Sue Mountstevens. The children I spoke to lived across three local authority areas and up to 75 miles apart. One of them only came to the notice of professionals when her friend who was already working with us told her she needed a BASE worker. Before April two of them would have been unlikely to have had a Barnardo’s BASE service to support them as we did not have the funding to work with children in their area.
Every month we are seeing more and more young people being referred to us across the whole of Avon and Somerset. Looking at today as a snapshot we are working with over a 160 young people who have been, are or are highly likely to be being seriously sexually abused through exploitation.
With less than 13 months left of the West of England funding we hope to continue to reach more children and work with our equally committed partners in trying to see more prosecutions and better outcomes for young people. I am particularly excited about seeing what progress we can make in tightening our identification of children being taken across local authority boundaries, and how we can share resources and knowledge to be the best we can for the most children.
Children Services Manager
Avon and Somerset BASE Project