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Frequently asked questions – Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme

Published: 15/10/2019

Author: Research in Practice

A consortium, led by Research in Practice, in partnership with The Children’s Society and University of Bedfordshire, is delivering a three year programme to tackle child exploitation.

The Tackling Child Exploitation (TCE) Support Programme is funded by the Department for Education and aims to support local areas to develop an effective strategic response to child exploitation and harm from outside the family home (‘extra-familial harm’), including child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation, such as ‘county lines’ drug trafficking.

The consortium have brought together some of the frequently asked questions about the TCE Support Programme. This includes general information and answers to detailed questions for those wanting to engage with the programme. These will be updated as the programme progresses. If you would like to suggest a question, email TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk


Who is the TCE Support Programme for?

The TCE Support Programme is for local area partnerships with safeguarding responsibilities. It is designed to provide some extra support so that local areas can review and develop their strategic approach to safeguarding children and young people facing extra-familial harm and exploitation, these terms are explained below.

What types of harm are you focusing on?

The TCE Support Programme will focus on extra-familial harm and exploitation. This includes forms of child abuse that tend to occur outside the family context, such as sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation, including association with gangs, ‘county lines’ and modern slavery.

We understand that there are different definitions of what people mean when they talk about child exploitation, threat, risk and harm, and there is no common definitions agreed across individuals and organisations. As part of the work of this programme, we will seek to contribute to the conversation about language, and set out some ways of describing how extra-familial harm and exploitation manifest. For the moment, we will use a general term: ‘extra-familial harm and exploitation’.

The TCE Support Programme will identify emerging trends in extra-familial child exploitation and harm as they arise and keep Department for Education and local areas informed about new threats and influences that may affect children and young people’s safety.

The TCE Support Programme will work with local partnerships with safeguarding responsibilities for children and young people aged 0-18, but we recognise the importance of the transition to adulthood, especially for looked after young people, and will endeavour to support local areas in their strategic planning for young adults who are vulnerable to, or experiencing extra-familial harm and exploitation.

Why focus on extra-familial? What about children and young people harmed by family members?

The children’s safeguarding system was largely designed with intra-familial harm in mind, and most of the systems and processes in place reflect this. Though there has been a great deal of innovation in recent years, social care services broadly tend to focus on working with the child or young person and their family; threats facing children and young people outside the home can sometimes be more difficult to identify and respond to. 

This programme is designed to give local partnerships additional support to address this challenge. This will complement, and not replace, the important work being done with families where children are at risk of harm within their family context. 

Some children and young people are affected by harm in the family and also outside it, and this programme will aim to support local areas to reflect this in their strategic planning. 

What will the TCE Support Programme actually do?

The TCE Support Programme will help local areas in two main ways:

  • Providing an online open-access website containing evidence-informed materials, such as knowledge briefings and tools, to support local areas to develop their strategic response to extra-familial harm and child exploitation.
  • Developing and delivering a range of bespoke support programmes, which entails providing time-limited projects to local areas in order to accelerate or add value to existing strategic activity.

Specifically, the bespoke support projects will involve:

  • A regular application process, with local areas (that is, the local authority and multiagency safeguarding partners) able to request support based on their needs and priorities.
  • Time-limited bespoke support projects, aimed at helping local areas to develop an effective strategic response to child exploitation and extra-familial harm.
  • A small team of delivery partners working with the local area, with each project underpinned by a clear plan that will be co-designed with the local area.
  • A simple baseline and follow up measure being undertaken with the local area to explore the impact of the bespoke support project.

We will also publish annual learning reports highlighting learning from local areas and intend to host a national learning event in 2022, where local areas will be able to share effective strategic planning and practice relating to child exploitation.

The TCE Support Programme will not focus on providing one-off training events or conferences as part of the core offer, nor will it provide direct support to individual children and young people.

Who is involved in this partnership, and what expertise do they bring?

The partners in our consortium have a strong track record in supporting local areas to develop and improve practice and strategy in this field and have individually and collectively driven the national response to adolescent harm.

Research in Practice, the lead contractor, directly supports over 120 local authorities to apply evidence in their work with children and families and has supported a number of innovations across the sector in relation to safeguarding adolescents.

The Children’s Society deliver highly-regarded services for this group of young people and are spearheading systems change through the Disrupting Exploitation Programme.

The University of Bedfordshire regularly produce cutting edge research relating to harm and abuse, with a particular focus on extra-familial harm, and have pioneered the development and testing of Contextual Safeguarding.

The programme management team is made up of representatives from the consortium: Dez Holmes, Research in Practice; Nerys Anthony, The Children’s Society; and Helen Beckett, University of Bedfordshire, and they provide the strategic leadership for the TCE Support Programme. They are supported by an operational management team, employed across the partner organisations, who are collectively responsible for the operational delivery of the programme, with additional support from each organisation to enable effective programme delivery.

The partnership is supported in this work by a group of ‘delivery partners’ – comprising colleagues from local authorities, police, voluntary sector organisations, academia and other agencies. These colleagues bring a wealth of expertise in enacting change and improvement at a local and national level, and have direct experience of enabling an effective response to extra-familial harm and exploitation.

How are you involving others (including young people) in your work?

We are keen to draw on expertise across the sector and amongst people with lived experience to develop our approach. To enable this, we undertook a scoping phase in year one in which we:

  • Issued a survey to colleagues across the sector exploring learning needs and strategic priorities. This survey is being re-issued in July 2020.
  • Planned engagement work with young people through our existing networks, to test ideas and help identify priority areas of focus.
  • Reviewed the available research literature to ensure our work is grounded in evidence.
  • Reviewed other relevant information, including inspection reports and serious case reviews, to ensure that our work reflects learning from the sector.
  • Consulted with key stakeholder groups, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), and other initiatives in this field to determine the sector’s priorities.

In year two we have a specific focus on enabling children and young people’s voices, and welcome applications for bespoke support that relate to the effective engagement, consultation and co-production with children, young people and families.

How does your offer fit with what others are doing?

By focusing on strategic level responses, we aim to avoid duplicating the work of others supporting direct practice. However, this is an area of work with lots of initiatives, projects and innovations and a variety of policy interests at play. We are keen to ensure we add value to existing work, and so we are continuously:

  • Consulting with the sector, and with young people (in a particular piece of work led by The Children’s Society and University of Bedfordshire in year two), to identify their priorities in developing an effective strategic response to child exploitation.
  • Designing online learning resources and bespoke support projects to meet the identified local area priorities.
  • Working closely with Department for Education and cross-governmental colleagues to share learning and to ensure the TCE Support Programme adds value to other activity.
  • Drawing on the support of a virtual advisory network, comprised of existing steering groups and committees working in this field, to ensure we are alert to other relevant activity.

How long is the TCE Support programme funded for?

The Department for Education has provided £1.9m to fund this programme from April 2019 to March 2022. Each consortium partner is contributing financial or in-kind resources to supplement the investment by Department for Education.

We will explore the option of co-funding support with the sector, for example, if a local area wants more support than can be delivered within the scope of the programme.

What is the geographical remit of the programme?

The TCE Support Programme covers all of England, with every local area able to access learning materials. Local areas and regions / sub-regions will be able to apply for bespoke support, designed to address specific issues and co-produced with the local area.

How can we contact you?

Please email TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk and we will ensure your query reaches the right member of the team.

Where is the TCE Support Programme based?

We do not have a physical ‘centre’ as we work across organisations and geographies. Research in Practice, as the lead contractor, hosts the administrative team.

How do I get involved?

You can help us to understand learning needs by responding to the sector survey (closing 31 July 2020).

You can share any examples of promising / effective practice related to multi-agency strategic planning regarding child exploitation, by responding to our ‘call for knowledge and practice’. We will consider evidence of impact before sharing, to ensure we can be clear about what constitutes ‘promising’ or ‘effective’.

You can provide feedback on the open-access resources we produce, and submit any tools and materials of your own for the wider sector to benefit from (providing you have the right to share these). Submitted materials will be evaluated using our quality matrix before being uploaded onto the website. You can, if you are a senior leader acting on behalf of your local area partnership, apply for bespoke support when the application process opens in July 2020.

To make sure you receive details of all of these, please email TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk asking to be included in the mailing list.

Detailed questions for those wanting to engage with the TCE Support Programme

Can you help practitioners with a case?

The TCE Support Programme is specifically intended to help local areas develop and deliver an effective strategic response to extra-familial threats and exploitation. We provide learning materials and bespoke support focused at this level and will not be focusing directly on individual children and young people. However, effective strategic planning directly affects practice, and we expect that local areas will work alongside practitioners in all professions to develop effective plans and responses to child exploitation. There are many organisations already providing valuable support for direct practice, and we will signpost to them. 

What kinds of support will be offered?

Guided by the findings from the scoping phase, here are some examples of the type of support we offer local areas:

  • Facilitating action learning sets with key senior personnel to help them to establish learning partnerships.
  • Helping local areas to undertake small scale action research projects.
  • Undertaking reviews of strategy documentation and plans.
  • Facilitating theory of change or ‘logic model’ workshops to help local areas design their strategic approach and /or understand the impact of these approaches.
  • Helping local areas to improve the ways in which they collate and analyse data in relation to extra-familial harm and exploitation.
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Dez Holmes: Learning together and doing differently

'We know we need to do things differently. Not only are we aiming to support system change at a local level, but also that we are part of the systems that we are trying influence.'
Tackling child exploitation: learning together and doing differently