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

The hyper-visible and invisible children


Jahnine Davis and Nick Marsh, Listen Up Research

‘Children become the victims or the beneficiaries of adult actions.’

(Cunningham, 2006)

A call to action:

If children are at the mercy of adult actions (Cunningham, 2006), it is appropriate that as professionals, whose role it is to promote the wellbeing of young people, we continually ask ourselves searching and challenging questions. This is particularly important when considering emerging practice in regard to different forms of child exploitation and extra familial harm.

Questions we should be asking ourselves, our organisations and the wider-field of practice include: exploring how confident we are that the services we provide are welcoming, accessible and culturally competent for children and young people from minority backgrounds? And whether individuals and teams routinely discuss anti-discriminatory practice and take action when needs arise? 

Equality, diversity and inclusion should not be considered as a policy that sits on the shelf, introduced to all new starters in the organisation, or packaged as a short e-learning course, quickly becoming an activity ticked and forgotten about. Recognising an individual’s ethnic, religious and cultural origins is not a choice – it is a legal responsibility. Consequently, it needs to be an active feature of our everyday safeguarding practice, as enshrined in legislation (Children Act 1989) and reiterated in guidance (Working Together, 2018).

Equality, diversity and inclusion should be regarded as a core principal of child protection and safeguarding practice and should be deemed as a priority, not an optional extra or as an additional task. To achieve this it is vital that we allocate the time and the resources necessary to better understand the interplay between, race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, and class in the exploitation of our young people and the services they receive or do not receive (The Children’s Society 2018). 

Reflection Point

Thinking about tackling about service provision:

  • How to does your organisation create a welcoming and accessible service to young people from diverse backgrounds?
  • What performance indicators and measures are in place to track and increase accountability of your organisational reach into diverse communities?

Recognising difference

Being exploited is often a traumatising experience for young people. How individuals express their trauma varies greatly and is partly influenced by psycho-social factors, including experience and societal expectations related to age, gender, ethnicity and class (The Children’s Society 2018). This is an important consideration for practitioners as their interpretation of the young person’s signals of distress ultimately influences the response they receive. It is a common experience for young people to be treated differently based on judgments, assumptions and stereotypes related to their individual or collective identity. This is the lived reality for many young people who are marginalised and often disenfranchised, including Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities and young people from working-class backgrounds.

Studies have shown that young working-class Black people, specifically boys, are disproportionally represented in our prison populations (Lammy, 2017; HM Inspectorate of Prisons, 2019) and whilst in prison, they are also more likely to be physically restrained (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2016). Personal characteristics also play a part in how young people experience education too. There is an abundance of evidence that the UK’s education system treats Black Caribbean and white working-class boys differently than other pupils, and that their educational attainment is significantly lower than their peers (Haque, 2019).  With this in mind, it is essential that we try to understand how preconceived discriminatory ideas and stereotypes directly influence the framing of narratives we form about individual young people and how this influences the outcomes they experience.

Who are we missing?

More generally, our collective professional bias is possibly most apparent when reflecting on the services we offer and who is referred to them. We could reasonably guess that most services provide support to 75-85% of one demographic. The most obvious example would be the fact that services are more likely to be involved in the lives of young people from working class backgrounds, as highlighted by Bernard (2017) in regards to child neglect. It is also likely that the majority of young people open to CSE services are female and from white British backgrounds. While this may not be indicative of professional bias in itself, it is important to remain professionally curious about who is being referred to services and who is not (Beckett and colleagues, 2015; Fox, 2016). 

Reflection Point

Thinking about tackling about service provision:

  • What data analysis currently takes place in your organisation to understand the demographics of the young people and families referred to your services and does this reflect the communities your organisation services?
  • What are the potential consequences of not understanding the deterministic nature of the services our young people receive (I.E young males from minority ethnic backgrounds disproportionately receiving a crime prevention response)?

We need to ask honest questions about how far we have really come. It is over a decade since Ward and Patel (2006) highlighted the narrow focus of the CSE debate within the UK. They argued for it to be more inclusive and reflective of the experiences of Black and Asian young people, while recognising they are not a homogenous group. Though there has been significant developments in our approach to CSE, recent research by Brown et al., (2017) also highlights several possible contemporary limitations. They emphasise that given the lack of evidence indictors on CSE risk assessment tools could be discriminatory, making it more difficult for marginalised young people (e.g. disability, ethnicity and sexuality) to be identified as ‘at risk’. 

Taking Action

No longer can we accept the deterministic outcomes of our approach, especially when the evidence on the impact of inequality is so overwhelming.  And although it can feel frustrating that there is still a need to raise these issues, it is our responsibility. Now, provides the perfect opportunity to amend this. As services energetically re-evaluate how best to meet the needs of those at risk of exploitation, we can build equality, diversity and inclusion in to our thinking, systems and everyday practice.

We owe it to our young people.  We need to be able to justify and be accountable for the services young people are referred to receive.

Practical considerations

  • Recognise the significance of buy-in at every level, including visible leadership from senior management, to reflect the importance and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Connect to external support to ensure accountability of service provision. This includes the use of relevant critical friends to support and challenge develop thinking
  • Commit to a culture of equity, which includes a diverse workforce, reflective promotional material and, importantly, an accountable strategy for inclusivity.
  • Critically reflect on processes, systems and tools which may exclude young people who are atypical of our current understanding of and thinking about exploitation.
  • Design a process to gain feedback from diverse group of people and include them in innovations and service design.

Nick Marsh and Jahnine Davis are PhD researchers exploring issues related to child protection and safeguarding. They are also joint directors of Listen Up Research, a community interest company, set up to elevate the voices of marginalised young people in practice,

For more information please contact: Hello@listenupresearch.org

Additional references

Beckett, H., Warrington, C., Ackerley, E. and Allnock, D. (2015) Children’s voices: children and young people’s perspectives on the police’s role in safeguarding: a report for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies. Luton: University of Bedfordshire. Available at: http://uobrep.openrepository.com/uobrep/bitstream/10547/621862/2/childrens-voices-research-report.pdf

Cunningham, H. (2006) The Invention of Childhood. London: Random House.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/YJB (2019) Children in Custody 2017-18. London: HMIP/YJB.

Ward and Patel (2006) ‘Broadening the Discussion on ‘Sexual Exploitation’: Ethnicity, Sexual Exploitation and Young People’, Child Abuse Review, 15 (5), 341-350.

Fox, C. (2016) It’s not on the radar. Barkingside: Barnardo’s.

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...
Read more

Practice Principles

Download the Practice Principles document to explore what this means for professionals, and how to develop your approach to tackling child exploitation.

Please note this is a legacy site and is not being updated. The TCE Programme closed on 31st March 2023.
The Practice Principles and all supporting resources will be available on the TCE microsite until March 31st 2026. Hosting arrangements beyond 2026 will be reviewed by the Department for Education.
© 2024 Tacking Child Exploitation
Registered Office: The Elmhirst Centre, Dartington Hall, Totnes, TQ9 6EL
Company Number: 1485560
Charity Number: 279756
VAT Number: 402196875
Website built by Vu Online

Accept Our Terms And Conditions

By clicking the ‘Accept’ button you, the user, confirm you have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions of Use of this open source website as part of the Tackling Childhood Exploitation Support Programme.

Terms and Conditions of Use

Please read these Terms and Conditions of Use carefully before you start to use the site. By using our site, you indicate that you accept these Terms and Conditions of Use and that you agree to abide by them. If you do not agree to these Terms and Conditions of Use, please refrain from using our site.

Accessing our site

Access to our site is open and public, and we reserve the right to withdraw or amend the service we provide on our site without notice (see below). We will not be liable if, for any reason, our site is unavailable at any time or for any period.

When using our site, you must comply with the provisions of our Acceptable Use Policy (below). You are responsible for making all arrangements necessary for you to have access to our site. You are also responsible for ensuring that all persons who access our site through your internet connection are aware of these Terms and Conditions of Use, and that they comply with them.

Intellectual property rights

The materials of this website have been gifted in kind or commissioned for the purpose of being open and free to access.

As a user, you may print off multiple copies and may download multiple documents.  These documents must only be used to support your work.  You must not pass on any part of the materials on our site to third parties and you must not use any part of the materials on our site for commercial purposes without obtaining a licence to do so from us or our licensors.

As a user of our site, you must not modify the paper or digital copies of any materials you have printed off or downloaded in any way, and you must not use any illustrations, photographs, video or audio sequences or any graphics separately from any accompanying text.   The status of any identified contributors as the authors of material on our site must always be acknowledged.

The identified contributors are the owner or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in our site, and in the material published on it. Those works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world. All such rights are reserved.

All trademarks, service marks, trade names, logos, domain names, and any other features of branding are the sole property of the respective contributors.

Our site changes

We aim to update our site regularly, and may change the content at any time. If the need arises, we may suspend access to our site, or close it indefinitely. Any of the material on our site may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no obligation to update such material.

Our liability

The material displayed on our site is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy. To the extent permitted by law, we, other members of our group of companies and third parties connected to us hereby expressly exclude:

  • All conditions, warranties and other Terms and Conditions of Use which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity.
  • Any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage incurred by any user in connection with our site or in connection with the use, inability to use, or results of the use of our site, any websites linked to it and any materials posted on it, including:
  • loss of income or revenue;
  • loss of business;
  • loss of profits or contracts;
  • loss of anticipated savings;
  • loss of data;
  • loss of goodwill;
  • wasted management or office time; and whether caused by tort (including negligence), breach of contract or otherwise, even if foreseeable, provided that this condition shall not prevent claims for loss of or damage to your tangible property or any other claims for direct financial loss that are not excluded by any of the categories set out above.

This does not affect our liability for death or personal injury arising from our negligence, nor our liability for fraudulent misrepresentation or misrepresentation as to a fundamental matter, nor any other liability which cannot be excluded or limited under applicable law.

Information about you and your visits to our site

We process information about you in accordance with our Privacy Policy. By using our site, you consent to such processing and you warrant that all data provided by you is accurate.

Viruses, hacking and other offences

You must not misuse our site by knowingly introducing viruses, trojans, worms, logic bombs or other material which is malicious or technologically harmful. You must not attempt to gain unauthorised access to our site, the server on which our site is stored or any server, computer or database connected to our site. You must not attack our site via a denial-of-service attack or a distributed denial-of service attack.

By breaching this provision, you would commit a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. We will report any such breach to the relevant law enforcement authorities and we will co-operate with those authorities by disclosing your identity to them. In the event of such a breach, your right to use our site will cease immediately.

We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a distributed denial-of-service attack, viruses or other technologically harmful material that may infect your computer equipment, computer programs, data or other proprietary material due to your use of our site or to your downloading of any material posted on it, or on any website linked to it.

Linking to our site

You may link to our home page, provided you do so in a way that is fair and legal and does not damage our reputation or take advantage of it, but you must not establish a link in such a way as to suggest any form of association, approval or endorsement on our part where none exists.

You must not establish a link from any website that is not owned by you.

Our site must not be framed on any other site, nor may you create a link to any part of our site other than the home page. We reserve the right to withdraw linking permission without notice. The website from which you are linking must comply in all respects with the content standards set out in our Acceptable Use Policy (below).

If you wish to make any use of material on our site other than that set out above, please address your request to TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk.

Links from our site

Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.

Jurisdiction and applicable law

The English courts will have non-exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising from, or related to, a visit to our site although we retain the right to bring proceedings against you for breach of these conditions in your country of residence or any other relevant country.

These Terms and Conditions of Use of use and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them or their subject matter or formation (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales.

International partners

Research in Practice is only able to provide technical support for our web services in English.

In the event of any legal dispute or claim, the courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

Storage, retention and access to data will be treated in accordance with our obligations under United Kingdom data protection legislation.

Acceptable Use Policy

Prohibited uses:

You may use our site only for lawful purposes. You may not use our site:

  • In any way that breaches any applicable local, national or international law or regulation.
  • In any way that is unlawful or fraudulent, or has any unlawful or fraudulent purpose or effect.
  • For the purpose of harming or attempting to harm minors in any way.
  • To send, knowingly receive, upload, download, use or re-use any material which does not comply with our content standards (below).
  • To transmit, or procure the sending of, any unsolicited or unauthorised advertising or promotional material or any other form of similar solicitation (spam).
  • To knowingly transmit any data, send or upload any material that contains viruses, Trojan horses, worms, time-bombs, keystroke loggers, spyware, adware or any other harmful programs or similar computer code designed to adversely affect the operation of any computer software or hardware.

You also agree:

  • Not to reproduce, duplicate, copy or re-sell any part of our site in contravention of the provisions of our Terms and Conditions of Use (above).
  • Not to access without authority, interfere with, damage or disrupt:
    • any part of our site;
    • any equipment or network on which our site is stored;
    • any software used in the provision of our site; or
    • any equipment or network or software owned or used by any third party.

Breach of Acceptable Use Policy:

We will determine, in our discretion, whether there has been a breach of this Acceptable Use Policy through your use of our site. When a breach of this policy has occurred, we may take such action as we deem appropriate.

Failure to comply with this Acceptable Use Policy constitutes a material breach of the Terms and Conditions of Use upon which you are permitted to use our site, and may result in our taking all or any of the following actions:

  • Issue of a warning to you.
  • Legal proceedings against you for reimbursement of all costs on an indemnity basis (including, but not limited to, reasonable administrative and legal costs) resulting from the breach.
  • Further legal action against you.
  • Disclosure of such information to law enforcement authorities as we reasonably feel is necessary.

We exclude liability for actions taken in response to breaches of this Acceptable Use Policy. The responses described in this policy are not limited, and we may take any other action we reasonably deem appropriate.

Changes to the Acceptable Use Policy

We may revise this Acceptable Use Policy at any time by amending this page. You are expected to check this page from time to time to take notice of any changes we make, as they are legally binding on you. Some of the provisions contained in this Acceptable Use Policy may also be superseded by provisions or notices published elsewhere on our site.

Your concerns

If you have any concerns about material which appears on our site, please contact TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk.

Thank you for visiting our site.