Senior Service Coordinator for Catch22’s Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation service, Vikki McKenna, describes how lockdown has meant the team has needed to take quite a different approach.
The Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation service works with young people to help keep them safe and to raise awareness of exploitation. We usually deliver our work through face to face sessions with young people (often one to one), awareness raising, group work, training of professionals and work with parents.
Young people are referred via MACE (Multi-Agency Child Exploitation) meetings. There is a Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation Protocol across the five Local Authorities and Police to ensure we’re all joined up in sharing of information and that processes are the same. Each young person is allocated a specified worker.
We’re all based in a MASH (multi-agency safeguarding hubs) and then within Child Exploitation Teams, consisting of social care, police, youth offending services and then have virtual partners, such as health and probation, also on hand.
Right now, the biggest challenge is not being able to see young people in person, in routine meet ups, and not being able to have those immediate conversations in the office with other professionals – which really help share insight and intelligence.
Staff deeply care about our young people and struggle with the lack of face-to-face contact. We’re finding everything takes a bit longer as we still get used to this new way of operating. The staff all have smartphones and are talking to the young people via video conversations – and we’re holding team meetings in the same way too. Prior to one-on-one sessions, the caseworkers are preparing and sending worksheets for young people (and in some cases, parents) to complete, so we can make the most of the contact time we have.
It’s not easy delivering the service under these circumstances, but we’re confident we’re still able to support the children and young people who need us. Three weeks into lockdown, we received some positive feedback from one of our Commissioners:
“Firstly can I say a HUGE (yes capitals were required!!) thank you to our St Helens Squad! The data for this quarter is so impressive. We really appreciate all your hard work – even more so during these challenging times. I have been hearing how you have gone above and beyond in this period too – so truly, a heartfelt thank you from us all”.
A great team effort in continuing to provide a service that so many young people rely on.