Parents are calling for a quicker response when a referral is made, and the development of positive relationships between Children’s Social Care services and the families they support.

These are the main findings of new research carried out by national child exploitation charity Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace), among parents of sexually exploited children in England and Wales. A consistent message from parents, over the 23 years that Pace has been working with them, is that the support they have received from Children’s Social Care services has often been insufficient and neither timely nor appropriate.

The research reveals:
Parents felt they were being blamed for the exploitation of their child
Parents felt alone in managing threats to their child and putting safety measures in place
Delays in Social Care service responses of up to two years, which exacerbated the harm caused by the abuse
Interventions focussed on the child and parent, with little attention on disrupting the perpetrator of the abuse
One parent who contributed to the research said:

“I was in total crisis, in this unknown world, fighting to keep my child safe. It’s hard to keep seeing clearly in this desperate situation and you’d hope that Children’s Social Care’s role would be to help and support you, but they don’t. They come in and blame and it’s absolutely devastating.”

Gill Gibbons, Chief Executive of Pace, said:

“We are all too aware of the impossible task facing Social Care as they cope with both the growing needs of families struggling with austerity and the massive cuts of recent years.

However, the safeguarding model used by Children’s Social Care services is fundamentally not fit for purpose because it focusses on parents as the problem rather than seeing them as partners in safeguarding their children. Pace welcomes the contextual safeguarding approach in unison with our Relational Safeguarding model which recognises the central role in safeguarding that the parents have.”

Social researcher Carlene Firmin MBE from the University of Bedfordshire, said:

“The voices of parents documented throughout this report demonstrate why a policy change has been needed, and the potential difference its implementation could make.

The most important lesson from the research is that social care interventions often undermined parent-child relationships rather than strengthening them, reinforcing the estrangement that grooming aims to achieve.

Hearing from those directly affected by exploitation is one of the best ways to develop a response that is both needed and effective. In building a report on, and around, the voices of parents whose children have been sexually exploited, Pace have made a critical contribution to informing how child protection systems evolve and respond to this issue in the future.”

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