Conservative led Wiltshire Council is leading a regional initiative with funding from the DfE to help safeguarded adolescents at risk of exploitation and harm outside of their home.
The council joined Swindon Borough Council and Dorset Council to gain £250,000 Department for Education funding to research and share best practice to directly address issues some young people face.
The project will support schools to identify where there are risks within the community, including peer on peer abuse, and share tools and resources to enable them to better support and safeguard young people.
There will be investment in volunteer mentors who will be trained up to support the parents of these children with a peer support network being established in the New Year.
The targeted approach will work in a number of ways including intervention 'in the moment' with young people immediately after significant events have occurred. Young people will be supported to attend group work sessions to talk about issues, look at consequences and focus on how they can steer their lives in a more positive direction.
The partnership across the local authorities will strengthen learning and help embed effective ways to address safety with young people and will be shared across the south west local authorities.
Conservative Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said:
Young people can have all the love and security at home and yet still encounter harm when they are in social situations, whether at school or with friends. Peer on peer abuse is a real thing and as a community we need to work on targeted ways to address these issues and support our young people. We need to uncover ways we can work together to recognise and address negative influences that can do long term harm.
Together we are stronger and this regional partnership will involve sharing invaluable insights which in turn will mean better ways to support and increase safety for our young people overall.
Wiltshire Council has already been involved in ground breaking work as part of its "contextual safeguarding" approach. Contextual safeguarding describes understanding, and responding to, young people's experiences of significant harm beyond their families. It recognises that the different relationships that young people form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse.
Wiltshire Council first started the work in 2018 in partnership with the research team at University of Bedfordshire, headed up by Dr Carlene Firmin. Wiltshire Family and Children's Service along with multi-agency partners have supported testing approaches with the aim of finding what works for Wiltshire, as well as contributing to national research which will inform findings and recommendations likely to impact future statutory guidance.
As part of this the council is already piloting a Risk Outside the Home Child Protection (CP ROTH) programme. This is for young people who may be at risk of significant harm outside the home. It offers young people and their families support and protection through the child protection process, but in a way which recognises and responds to the fact it is coming from outside the home. The plans developed by those working with the child at risk may involve contributions from non-traditional safeguarding partners, such as shopkeepers, leisure centre or library staff who are aware of issues of concern. These people may have a reach into the places and spaces where young people are most at risk of harm, and can be supported to use their community knowledge to increase safety for young people.
CP ROTH is supported by the Department for Education and is an inclusive, supportive and restorative space for the young person, their family and professionals to design a plan to reduce risk and increase safety.
Young people, families and professionals are being consulted regularly as part of this work and their views will be a significant factor in the evaluation and any decisions to adopt this practice post pilot.
You can find more information about the CP ROTH pilot and Contextual Safeguarding at Wiltshire Safeguarding Vulnerable People Partnership: Contextual Safeguarding
Anyone who thinks a child or young person is at risk of significant harm or is injured can contact Wiltshire Council Integrated Front Door - 0300 4560108, 8.45am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday and 8.45am to 4pm Friday; Out of Hours 0300 456 0100. If there is immediate danger, phone the police or emergency services on 999. For less urgent enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.