Learning and Reflections, Minoritised voices & expertise by experience, Programme Blogs, Programme Themes

Delivery Team Reflection – Part 5 – Children and Young People’s Voice thematic project



What have we done?

To date, we have talked to young people from three organisations. We’ve asked the same questions but the discussions have taken different directions. All the consultations have been really interesting, and have raised very important issues. We are really grateful for your help – thank you.

What have you told us?

We have looked at the information from all of our discussions. It was interesting to see that many of the same themes and issues were identified. We’ve summarised the main points as follows:

Responses to child exploitation and abuse

  • Child exploitation is not talked about. Adults do not talk to young people about it, and young people don’t necessarily know about it or how to recognise it when it happens.
  • Professionals lack an understanding of / the ability to communicate about exploitation. E.g., it was noted that young people wouldn’t feel able / think it worthwhile to talk to a teacher if they were being exploited.

  • There is a lack of understanding of the context of young people’s lives, including their histories of trauma, which can explain young people’s choices.

  • Linked to this, there is a lack of understanding from professionals that being exploited can feel positive to young people. Adults don’t want to hear about what young people gain from exploitation, which can be better than other things happening in their lives.

  • There is also a failure to recognise or talk about the bigger issues – poverty and inequality – which can be much more important to young people than exploitation, or may be really important in understanding why exploitation is taking place.

What needs to change?

  • It’s important to understand that exploitation is not just about the abuse at an individual level.

  • Language is important. For example, the way young people are described in the media doesn’t help.

  • Schools really need to change. This issue was raised by everyone. Young people need to have access to good education, including education on sex and relationships that includes information about exploitation.

  • There is a need for confident professionals. Professionals need to be able to talk to young people and have a real understanding of the issues. The quality of interaction between professionals and young people is really important.

  • Peers are important as a source of support – young people need to be able to talk to other young people. Groups can be helpful in this. Help from peers also needs to be accessible e.g. via helplines.

  • The legal system needs to change and strike a balance between the focus on perpetrators and real help for children and young people who have experienced exploitation.

  • Overall, adults with responsibility (as both professionals and parent/carers) need to be held accountable. Too often this doesn’t seem to be the case.

  • Who has the right to make decisions about young people? Sometimes the people with the most decision-making power have the least contact with young people. Surely those who make decisions should be listening to young people?

Getting your views heard

  • ‘Everyone needs to listen’. There is a lack of understanding everywhere about child exploitation, amongst the public, communities and in schools.

  • There needs to be better understanding and recognition of the difficulties for young people in talking about child exploitation. If adults had a better understanding, this might be easier.

  • In order to be understood, young people recognise that they need to share their experiences. But too often they aren’t taken seriously, aren’t listened to or their efforts are ignored.

  • Young people are asked to give a lot for nothing. Sometimes they put a lot of work in and it isn’t then clear if or how their input is being used. It can be fashionable to include children and young people’s voices, or even simply necessary for funding. Where young people participate in ‘listening’ exercises, they need to be treated with respect, which includes being paid for their time and expertise.

If there’s anything we have not included or have misheard or captured incorrectly above, please let us know.

What’s next for this project?

The work from this project aims to influence the work of the TCE Programme and those the programme is associated with. The Programme works with leaders in social care, the police, education, health and other services to improve responses to child exploitation.  It also works with policymakers in government departments.

We are now planning the next stages of our work for January and May 2022, to digest the information we have heard and to consider what our next steps could be. As part of this, we will be looking at further opportunities for young people to collaborate with TCE in the new year.

If you have any thoughts or responses to the issues we’ve identified, please don’t hesitate to email us:

This blog is part of a series –

Good practice principles: hearing the voice of children and young people

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Joining the Dots
Our collective knowledge of and understanding of child exploitation is still a developing field. Ideas and examples from across the sector and beyond may help bring a fresh new perspective or unlock a problem. The resources below are part of this rich conversation...
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