Child exploitation is a complex and fast moving issue. In trying to respond, services in local areas face numerous challenges.
One of these is around identifying children and young people at risk (although we know there may be no indicators) as well as the places and perpetrators associated with exploitation. Data plays a key role here and has been an important strand of work for the Tackling Child Exploitation (TCE) Support Programme when working with local areas.
Uploaded today on the TCE website is the first of three papers from a series of interviews conducted with practitioners and experts in the child exploitation field. Gary Stratton, Detective Inspector for Public Protection, Merseyside Police; Joanne Beese, Lead Analyst, Complex Safeguarding Hub, Greater Manchester and Kairika Karsna, Senior Research and Evaluation Officer, Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse were interviewed about the role of data in relation to child exploitation. Some of the key themes in the paper are set out here.
Data was highlighted as both an opportunity and a challenge when working with child exploitation and extra familial harm. Local area data has the potential to
- a) provide the granular detail about what is happening on the ground (including the hotspots of activity and perpetrators) and;
- b) identify the gaps (who isn’t being reached; where referrals aren’t coming from) which can inform strategic planning and decision-making.
The challenges for local areas of collating this information from multiple services and using it are significant. Multiple data streams are held by different services who invariably all work with different databases. Sharing data is not straightforward. Nevertheless, progress can be made as the following three examples highlighted in this paper demonstrate.
- An important first step is identifying what data exists across local partnerships. One TCE Support Programme approach when working with local areas is to bring the data analysts from different services together. Gary Stratton noted the impact of this: ‘When they were given an opportunity to speak about ‘what data do you hold?’ everyone was coming out of the woodwork and saying ‘this is the information we hold on that child and family’ and I am sat there…stunned, thinking ‘I don’t know any of this!’’
- Gaining strategic buy-in to facilitate this work was also emphasised. Arguably the best way of achieving this is to demonstrate to senior decision makers that improved data will allow them to do their jobs better. Kairika explained that ‘once they understand the importance of it, the wheels will be set in motion in local areas.’
- When stakeholders work collaboratively and make joint decisions there are two important outcomes. Firstly, there is a genuine sense of collective ownership leading to a more sustainable buy-in across local partners. Secondly, the data collected and shared is of strategic importance: relevant and useful.
In our work at the TCE Support Programme, Rebecca Godar has written a series of resources ‘Data for intelligence’ that local areas can use to work through some of these challenges. These focus on practical ways to use data for practice development and improvement and include a multi-agency framework.
The teenage brain – how the research can (and should?) inform practice
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