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Changing young lives

18 August 2015

Becky Lewis, Barnardo’s BASE Children Services Manager tells us about how her team provides support to some of the most vulnerable young people in the South West.

Our new grant from the Big Lottery Fund means we can reach even more young people across the South West who have been sexually exploited.

So what is it exactly that we do?

Becky---BarnardosWe currently support over 120 young people who are experiencing or who have experienced sexual exploitation. This number is growing week on week as word of our new capacity spreads. The young people we support are some of the most vulnerable in the South West – they have been targeted, groomed, sexually exploited, raped, assaulted, trafficked, abused, sold, and let down by people they believed loved them.

All our young people are allocated a support worker who sees them at least weekly. They meet the young people on their terms and where they are comfortable.

Sessions are all unique to the individual young person. Some examples include: support to recognise abuse; understand consent; manage the nightmares, flashbacks and self-injury that result from their abuse; learn about grooming and control; and support when speaking to police or in court.

We don’t think young people can be expected to make progress when they are hungry, homeless, or hurt so we always start by supporting with their basic needs first. This could mean taking them to the sexual health clinic, buying food, getting them clean clothes, or sorting out their housing.

Young people should not be the ones who are expected to safeguard themselves
– we need to make the places they go safe and prevent and prosecute those individuals who harm and abuse them. That’s why most days you will find one of my workers requesting strategy meetings, meeting with police, and considering creative options for how we restrict the abusers rather than the young people they abuse.

Barnardos-blog-picBut this week we will also be celebrating, as we do every week. Despite living through these horrendous experiences our young people can thrive. Take the young person who called last week to say she had got a job working in a shoe shop despite waiting for a court date about the extensive abuse she suffered. Or the young man who starts piano lessons this week with our support in his quest to be the next big thing. With the right support we know that all our young people have the potential to achieve exceptional things.

To find out more about the work of Barnardo’s, visit their website

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