On 15th July 2017 delegates from health, social care, education, policing and criminal justice and the third sector excitedly gathered on a beautifully warm day at New Place Hotel in Shirrell Heath for ‘Banking Compassion: Professional Responses to CSE’. Arriving to a warm welcome and bacon sandwiches, over a hundred delegates assembled to hear a keynote speech by Professor Jenny Pearce OBE (University of Bedfordshire) who discussed the lessons learned from the latest research into Child Sexual Exploitation in the UK. Professor Pearce’s excellent talk set the tone for a challenging but stimulating and collegiate day, which – despite the difficult subject matter – was enjoyed by all who attended.
The first sessions of the day included a workshop on Social Pedagogical Approaches to CSE run by Dr Catherine Brennan (Releasing Potential) and Dr Kieron Hatton (University of Portsmouth), as well as a seminar examining the power dynamic between abuser and abused in the sports coaching relationship by Dr Helen Owton (The Open University). Nina Heptner (CAMHS and YOT) spoke about the dialogical slippage between offender and victim in the context of CSE; Hilary Foster (Enough Abuse) about the ways that parents are unwittingly groomed so that their children can be exploited; Barnardo’s about their A4 intervention with victims of exploitation, and Wayne Keeping (Stella’s Voice) about human trafficking from orphanages in the EU. In perhaps the most contentious workshop of the day, the Crown Prosecution Service discussed the recent roll-out of ‘Pre-Trial Therapy’ and the failings of the CPS in supporting child-victims in the past. With many attendees having experienced frustration in dealing with the criminal justice system, this powerful session gave rise to intense debate about the CPS and highlighted the passion of delegates working with young people at risk of or victims of exploitation.
Following a sit-down lunch in the Manor House, the afternoon sessions explored practical strategies for supporting young people, aimed at those working in the day-to-day reality of the social care sector, health services and non-mainstream education. Presentations and case studies by Common Thread Residential Care and our very own Ashleigh Stocks and Tom Belcher, highlighted the need for flexible and consistent approaches to both therapeutic and educational responses to sexually-exploited young people. Similarly, workshops by Safer London’s Chief Operating Officer Laura Butterworth and her team focussed on supporting young people and their families through the aftermath of sexual exploitation, offered a chilling yet fascinating and valuable analysis of the extent of exploitation in the UK’s most densely populated areas. Laura’s expertise in front-line intervention work with the city’s most vulnerable families shined a much-needed light on the devastating impact of sexual abuse not only on victims but on the wider fabric of the family and the social body.
To round off the day, delegates, speakers, staff and trustees enjoyed a barbeque and games on the terrace at New Place. As the sun came down on a busy day, we reflected on what had been a fun, surprising, challenging but affirming and inspiring day. We look forward with anticipation to welcoming delegates to next year’s conference on the subject of Alternative Education.
Early Bird tickets for our 2018 conference will be available soon.