A number of young people at risk of sexual abuse in Rochdale and Wigan have been identified and protected due to the success of a pioneering child sexual exploitation (CSE) project, Achieving Change Together.
That was a key finding of a Department for Education (DFE) report into the government’s £956,000 funded scheme, which has been in place since February 2016 thanks to pioneering partnership work between Rochdale Borough Council and Wigan Council, building on the learning from the Greater Manchester Phoenix programme.
The scheme was implemented after the local authorities made a successful bid for money through the government’s Innovation Programme. Both councils received praise from the evaluators for their innovative, dedicated and tailored preventative work around CSE issues.
By focussing on early identification and prevention, the project has already saved many children and young people from the effects of abuse, whilst also changing how the wider community and public services respond to CSE.
'Rochdale and Wigan were also commended for involving young people, parents, carers and social workers throughout the project’s design and implementation.'
The report acknowledged other milestones the 2 councils have achieved. The project has:
- Fully engaged with young people, families, practitioners and the children’s social care system to help inform service design.
- Sharing information and communication across partner agencies.
- Provided intensive early support to 25 young people affected by sexual exploitation.
- Ensured that placement instability and unnecessary escalation for CSE affected young people is avoided by providing key person centred support.
- High numbers of parents, carers and young people are engage and report high levels of satisfaction with the service.
- Reduced the caseloads of children’s social workers to increase levels of involvement and improve the quality of relationships between workers, young people and families.
- Reduction in the number of young people who need to be placed in the care of the local authority and at distances away from their families.
Councillor Donna Martin, Rochdale Borough Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are proud to be leading the way in finding new models of working and approaches to disrupting, preventing and prosecuting CSE perpetrators at a local and regional level.
“Thanks to our own multi-agency Sunrise Team, Greater Manchester’s Project Phoenix and this innovative partnership that has developed the ACT service, we are making a positive difference to the lives of so many young people and their families.”
Gail Hopper, Rochdale Borough Council's director of children’s services, said that work is now underway with the other 8 councils in Greater Manchester who are part of the Phoenix programme. Having received the feedback from the evaluation they are keen to see this approach role out across the whole of the Greater Manchester area.
James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at Wigan Council, said: “This innovative project has played an important role in the fight to combat child sexual exploitation and has proved to be a real success thanks to the partnership working between us and our counterparts in Rochdale. This work will continue and we are pleased to be able to share our experiences with other authorities across Greater Manchester to help us protect more children from serious harm and help to detect and convict those who try to carry out these deplorable crimes.”
The government’s Innovation Programme focuses on 2 key target areas – fresh ways of working in children’s social work and better support for young people in or on the edge of care.