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Child exploitation

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire: Volunteer mentor service report 2021-2022

A woman wearing glasses sits at a table, listening to an anonymous figure sat opposite her. She rests her head on both her hands which are clasped beneath her chin.

Catch22 are commissioned in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to work with children and young people who have gone missing from home or care, or who are at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). We deliver bespoke support and interventions to children and young people to build resilience and aspiration, empowering them to take control of their lives and supporting them to stay safe.

From March 2020, we were also commissioned to set up a pilot CCE Service for children at risk of Child Criminal Exploitation in the city/county.

To support our commissioned casework, we have a Volunteer Mentor Service which enables us to:

  • provide a gentle step-down rather than a cliff-edge exit,
  • expand and extend the support we can offer,
  • address some of the things that we are not commissioned to do but we know will make a difference to long-term change and recovery,
  • respond to children who do not appear to meet the threshold for casework but about whom we have concerns, and
  • provide more intensive support where risks are high, we also have community champions to help us reach out to the people and communities we find it more difficult to support.

“My daughter has benefited hugely from the support from Catch22, she is able to talk to her mentor using normal down-to-earth language rather than scientific terms used by professional. She is able to talk about her interests and hobbies rather than just her mental health problems and is treated as an individual rather than a patient.”

– Mum of 13-year-old girl

Volunteer mentor model

Catch22 have been commissioned to provide Missing and CSE Services in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent since September 2017. The Volunteer Service recruited its first volunteers in January 2018 and ran the first volunteer training course in March 2018.

Since that time, 64 volunteers have offered support to 92 children and young people; provided admin support; assisted with events, and championed diverse communities of people to help us engage better with them.

The Volunteer Service recruits adult mentors (aged 18+) from a range of contexts to support children and young people who have been reported missing or who are deemed to be at risk of exploitation. Referrals to the mentor service come internally from Catch22 CSE and Missing caseworkers. There is no standard support package. Support is tailored to the child in response to their expressed needs and wishes. There is no set timeframe, but we guarantee a minimum of 6 support sessions for each mentee. It is possible to extend support beyond this if it is deemed necessary. To enable gradual withdrawal of support, a mentor may complete a series of face-to-face support sessions, then offer a further period of telephone support before finally signing off a young person.

Referrals are made by Catch22 caseworkers for one of three reasons:

  1. Intensive casework has been completed but the child still wishes to have support.
  2. The child does not meet the threshold for casework, but concerns remain.
  3. The child is so vulnerable that additional support is deemed necessary alongside casework.

After children and young people are referred into the service by Catch22 caseworkers or coordinators, we then match them with a mentor depending on availability, geographical location, needs and interests, and gender where appropriate. The caseworker facilitates the initial meeting to help the young person feel more at ease and to encourage trust and confidence in the mentor.

During that meeting, the caseworker, mentor, and young person come up with a support plan based on what the child wants and needs. The support plans are extremely flexible and largely driven by the young person themselves. The mentoring support is additional to our contracted service specifications so we can be very creative and responsive in what we offer.

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