Column: One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to supporting youngsters

Tracy Harrison is CEO of Derbyshire-based charity Safe And Sound (Photo: Ian Hodgkinson/Picture It)Tracy Harrison is CEO of Derbyshire-based charity Safe And Sound (Photo: Ian Hodgkinson/Picture It)
Tracy Harrison is CEO of Derbyshire-based charity Safe And Sound (Photo: Ian Hodgkinson/Picture It)
​We all know that every child and their family dynamic is different and that is why there is no magic wand to providing support in times of crisis, writes Tracy Harrison, CEO of Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity Safe and Sound.

Our charity supports children – some as young as seven – young people and their families across Derbyshire whose lives have been affected by exploitation, including online grooming, sexual exploitation, County Lines, trafficking, modern slavery and radicalisation.

Last year, we supported 385 children and young people – both boys and girls - and 50 families from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds.

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They live in all parts of the city and county right up to the High Peak.

Each young person’s circumstances and experiences are unique – although we are increasingly finding that the grooming and exploitation starts online which has a common pattern of predatory behaviour and criminality.

Just as everyone’s experiences are different – the support we need to put in place has to be bespoke – whether that is one to one and group support, positive activities, therapy or a combination of all.

Safe and Sound has just published our annual report which highlights the extent of the dangers facing young people both online and in person in our local communities.

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On a more positive note, it also shows just how individualised support can help to transform the lives of children, young people and their families.

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“Our clear focus is to help transform the lives of children affected by exploitation but it is only by truly listening to what they are going through that we can tailor the support they need,​” says Tracy Harrison, CEO of Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound.“Our clear focus is to help transform the lives of children affected by exploitation but it is only by truly listening to what they are going through that we can tailor the support they need,​” says Tracy Harrison, CEO of Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound.
“Our clear focus is to help transform the lives of children affected by exploitation but it is only by truly listening to what they are going through that we can tailor the support they need,​” says Tracy Harrison, CEO of Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound.

Throughout the exploitation grooming cycle, trust is a significant factor that has the impact of children feeling alone and a loss of where they belong with their families, friends and the community. Many are bewildered by involvement with police, social care and other statutory relationships.

Having built up trust with the young people, our specialist case workers are able to show them that they are not to blame for what has happened to them but that they are victims.

Take for example a nine-year-old boy we have supported whose home life had previously been blighted by domestic abuse – making him particularly vulnerable to be groomed and exploited by drugs gangs who could potentially give him, in his eyes, the attention he longed for.

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Through one to one support, he has been able to build relationships with his mum and it has given him the confidence to take back control of his life. He is now in a new school and doing well.

A 13-year-old girl was referred to us following concerns that she had been groomed online.

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This and other factors had led to a breakdown in her relationship with her mum.

Our support worker has helped the family spend more quality time together to re-build relationships and communication. The young person has also diverted her energies into sporting activities which has hugely helped her physical and mental health.

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Creative therapies are proven ways to support young people and adults and have been very effective for a mother and daughter whose relationship was fragmented – exacerbated by the young person being groomed by a stranger online who then sexually abused her.

Creative therapies have helped to open up lines of positive communication at home, re-establish boundaries and re-build trust between them.

Our clear focus is to help transform the lives of children, young and peoples affected by exploitation but it is only by truly listening to what young people and families are going through that we can tailor the support they need.

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One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to supporting children and families in crisis which is something that we can perhaps all consider in our professional and personal lives.

If you have concerns about a young person, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk