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Child exploitation

Catch22 launches free exploitation awareness resource

Close-up of young people making notes by hand. Only the bottom half of their faces can be seen.

You may be familiar with this now-famous quote from the inimitable Desmond Tutu:

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

Too often, children are referred to Catch22 when they have already ‘fallen in’, when they have already suffered harm through exploitation. Too often, we are only invited into schools once concerns have been identified. We have become increasingly aware of the need for prevention and early intervention with children and young people, but we don’t necessarily have the capacity to ‘get upstream’ because we’re too busy pulling people out of the water.

Many of our services are commissioned to provide one-to-one support and intervention with children known to be at risk of, or to be experiencing, exploitation without any preventative work being commissioned alongside this.

Catch22 has provided Child Exploitation services for over a decade. Our extensive experience has lead us to understand that exploitation needs to be tackled directly and early with children and young people, as supported by recent research from the NWG and the Safeguarding Network:

“All results had the commonality of identifying education as playing an important role in prevention and early intervention. “We need PSHE lessons in school which explicitly teach about risks of exploitation.”

– Designated Safeguarding Lead

Building knowledge and confidence

This Child Exploitation Awareness Day, we wanted to equip school staff, as the adults most in contact with children, with the knowledge, confidence and resources to do just that.

Catch On is a free educational resource about Child Exploitation aimed at Years 7 and 8 (ages 11-13). The resource contains a suite of options for a single lesson or series of lessons exploring the topic of grooming and exploitation. Materials include lesson slides with embedded links and videos; comprehensive lesson plan guidance with photocopiable activity sheets; a handbook for parents and professionals.

The resource has been written by a team of frontline practitioners and a curriculum lead from one of our Catch22 schools. The objective is to make children aware of child exploitation, empower them to recognise the warning signs, and know where to go to get help if they or their friends are targeted.

Whilst Catch On was designed to be used in schools and education provisions, it is available for free to anyone working to support children in any setting. We all share the same aim of trying to ‘catch children before they fall’ into exploitation.

The resource consists of three young people’s stories– all based on our frontline experience- and you can choose to follow the stories in any order. Each story has an opening activity, a video and then follow-on activities to be used at the teacher’s discretion to suit the abilities and sensitivities within the class. It is not necessary to complete all the stories and we recognise that different lessons last for different lengths of time so there is flexibility to accommodate this.

Kate Wareham, Strategic Director of Young People, Families & Communities at Catch22, said:

“We created this resource because we know how important prevention and early intervention are in the fight against child exploitation. Too often, children are referred to Catch22 when they have already suffered harm. Too often, we are only invited into schools once exploitation has been identified. We want to empower children with the knowledge and information they need to spot the signs of exploitation before they come to harm, and we need to inform the adults around them so they can keep children safe.

“Schools fear that routinely covering these issues is an admission there is a problem. This is far from the case. Schools that are willing to tackle these issues proactively, creating an open culture where children feel safe to explore and discuss them are the schools where there is less likely to be a problem.”

Teachers and PSHE Coordinators who piloted the Catch On resources in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent said:

  • “We did the lesson twice with two different Y7 classes – very mixed ability and with a range of issues and attitudes. They were all very engaged. However we felt it was defo pitched at the right level. We liked the agreeing ground rules and the look of the presentation in general. The case studies were really relevant and we liked that they were cartoons.“
  • “Absolutely brilliant!”
  • “It was very engaging and really enabled discussion. To be honest, we were a bit shocked at how much some of the kids knew about all this, although some were much less aware. It was definitely stories they could relate to and that encouraged them to reflect on their own experiences.”
  • “You know, I think you’ve got to take the attitude that it could happen here. You need to create an open forum where children feel safe to share and discuss these things. This resource enabled us to do that.”
  • “As a teacher, I felt comfortable and confident in the resources. They were clear and non-threatening and I felt I could relax knowing where the lesson was going and what I should be trying to achieve.”
  • “The Catch On resource will support education providers to confidently deliver sessions on Child Exploitation at a prevention and early intervention level. As PSHE Coordinators, we seek out resources that are quality, age appropriate and reflect PSHE best practice principles. Catch On supports practitioners to consider safe learning environments, provides links to curriculum and includes active learning techniques which support students to build their knowledge, skills and values on this topic.”