Launch of ‘ReachOut’ service to tackle child sexual exploitation

Published Friday, 29th January 2016
Launch of ReachOut Service
Launch of the Reachout Service

A new service which will support children and young people in Rotherham who have been or who are at risk of being sexually exploited has been officially launched by Barnardo’s this week.

The ReachOut service is being delivered by a team of specialist workers at the children’s charity in partnership with a range of stakeholders - funded by £3.1m from Rotherham Council, the KPMG Foundation, The Department for Education, The Communities and Local Government Department and Barnardo’s. The funding package which represents an innovative partnership between statutory and voluntary agencies was put together by Rotherham’s Strategic Director of Children’s Services, Ian Thomas. 

A team of 15 new workers are now in post in the town. They will be proactively engaging with children, young people and families as well as community groups, schools, colleges and health services in a bid to raise awareness of how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation. 

The team will be identifying vulnerable children and those at risk of child sexual exploitation and helping the council and police prevent future crimes by acting as a source of community expertise. 

The new workers come from various professions and have extensive experience and skills in engaging with young people.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan, said: “Today is a really positive step forward for the children and young people of Rotherham. Our workers will be out in all communities making sure that everyone is alert to spotting the signs of child sexual exploitation. We will work tirelessly to protect children and prevent this crime from taking place.

“We are committed to working closely with other agencies and supporting victims as they try to rebuild their shattered lives.” 

Rotherham’s Strategic Director of Children’s Services, Ian Thomas, said:  “I am proud that Rotherham will be home to the largest dedicated CSE Service in the country. We will have more capacity than ever to support children, young people and their families in avoiding the dangers of this awful crime”.   

Cllr Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, said:  “As we continue to improve our response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham this project will be an important element of that work.  It’s important that we have a full range and variety of support systems in place to keep our young people safe. Having met the staff who are now working on the project, I know that they bring real enthusiasm and a wide range of experience to benefit the whole community.

“Over the coming weeks and months residents will be able to see the money we secured alongside our partners translated into people on the ground, out and about around the borough to help protect young people, and further raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.”

Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, the Local Policing Unit Commander for Rotherham, said: “We work closely with Barnardo’s and partner agencies across a range of disciplines, including the local authority, health and social care, to ensure that victims, survivors and children at risk have access to the support they need. 

“The development of the outreach programme is a great achievement by Rotherham Council and Barnardo’s and is another positive milestone for the town. Barnardo’s perform an invaluable role supporting children who are either at risk of abuse or who have sadly already fallen victim to this horrific crime and I look forward to our continued work together to tackle child sexual exploitation and make the borough a safer place to live and work.” 

Jo Clunie, Director of the KPMG Foundation said: “We very much look forward to seeing a significant reduction in the number of children vulnerable to CSE in Rotherham through the programmes in schools but also through the empowerment of community members to spot signs of CSE activity”.

Funding of £3.1m to develop the service was announced last year. Barnardo’s, which has over 20 years’ experience working with children and young people who have been sexually exploited, will deliver the service for the next three years.

The development of the service came after Professor Alexis Jay estimated that 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 in her independent report. And in her inspection of Rotherham Council published in 2015, senior civil servant Louise Casey CB highlighted the shortage of effective support for victims such as those that had previously been provided by the ‘Risky Business’ service in the town.

Following those reports, the Government put in place a team of five external commissioners to help rapidly improve the Council’s services and offered to provide extra support for victims. That funding has now been added to by the KPMG Foundation and the Council itself.