Rebuilding Rotherham without Youth Work – a disquieting irony?

Bernard Davies poses a pertinent question following a CYPN post, Pioneering CSE drive gets under way in Rotherham.


He begins:

Exactly two years ago Professor Alexis Jay produced a report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham which included the conclusion that:

Accessibility is one of the key elements in reaching out to children who are sexually exploited or being groomed, and this needs to be done in ways that young people will engage with and trust. Every effort should be made to increase this capacity, building on the work currently done by youth workers … . This is important because sexual exploitation by its very nature tends to be a hidden problem.

The report also noted that the organisation Risky Business

… a small team of youth workers, set up in 1997, following concerns by local staff about young people being abused through prostitution … adopted an outreach approach, based on community development principles. That is, it started where the young person was; it concerned itself with the whole person and addressed any issues that the young person brought to the relationship; it did not prescribe or direct. Its methods were complementary to those of the statutory services. Its success depended upon the skills of the individual worker and the level of trust which young people were willing to commit to it. Its operations could be volatile, unpredictable, and even ‘risky’. Nevertheless, it was performing a function which services with statutory responsibilities could not fully replicate. Any semblance of the statutory worker had to be set aside in order to create and retain trust. .

On 30 August the Children and Young People Now carried a 7 ­page article headlined: ‘Rebuilding Rotherham’. The daily email bulletin of the same date summarised this under the title ‘Pioneering CSE drive gets under way in Rotherham’. Both describe – the article in detail – ­ a new centre opened earlier this month as part of Rotherham’s specialist multi­agency service to combat CSE staffed by eight police officers, eight social workers, a safeguarding nurse, two Barnardo’s workers and a worker from a voluntary organisations called Parents against Sexual Exploitation and their managers.

The articles paint a reassuring picture of an authority which is working very hard to learn and apply the lessons from its past failures and of a team which is striving to give dedicated and caring attention to young people who are at serious risk. So I may well have simply missed something of the fine detail of the project and its operation.

Yet I do feel bound to ask: is there embedded in this somewhere the ‘volatile, unpredictable and even risky”’ youth work – especially the detached youth work ­ which Jay saw as so crucial?

One comment

  1. I no longer subscribe to CYP Now, so have not read the whole article. However, one of the reasons sometimes given for reductions to youth work funding is that ‘we’ as a profession had failed to prove our worth. The Jay report into Rotherham made it very clear what the value of youth work had been – and in addressing concerns around CSE which is still high on the agenda for LSCBs.

    Sadly it appears the dots have not been joined.

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