Nightwatch: CSE as everyone’s business

Last December the International Centre published an  evaluation of  a pilot project aimed at awareness-raising  and prevention of  child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the  context of  the night time economy. In this blog report authors Dr Kate  D’Arcy and Roma Thomas talk about what they found in this setting.

Awareness raising is a key means for preventing CSE as it lays the foundations for early intervention and support for children and young people who may be vulnerable to exploitation. While there is growing understanding of CSE, further investigation is needed to understand what works best to promote awareness of CSE in the community. In order for this work to be effective, communities needs to take responsibility for safeguarding children and young people. CSE must become everyone’s business

This blog  draws  on the recently published evaluation of  a Barnardo’s pilot  project  ‘Nightwatch: CSE in Plain Sight’. The year-long project was launched in April 2015 and  was funded by the Department for Education (DfE). Our evaluation took place during the life of the project. The Nightwatch project extended Barnardo’s CSE prevention work into new territory within the community.  The term ‘community’ has many meanings, but in this context it focuses on those who work and service the community as part of the night time economy. This includes, for example, people working in fast-food outlets, hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation as well as accident and emergency services, and security service roles.  The pilot was delivered by Barnardo’s workers in 14 locations across England.

The aims of the Nightwatch project were:

‘To safeguard children and young people from child sexual exploitation by increasing awareness of CSE among businesses and services working in the night-time economy, and by developing strategies, in co-production with these businesses and others, to identify and protect children at risk at night, and intervene early by providing advice, support, training and guidance’.

Nightwatch  provides an important example  of the value of investing in prevention resources as it raised  awareness within the community. The model holds real potential as a prevention strategy for CSE.  We found that implementation of Nightwatch resulted in increased confidence and awareness amongst night time economy workers about  the issue of CSE and how to identify it, as well as examples of children and young people having been safeguarded from exploitation and abuse. We hope that these findings can inform future community awareness raising strategies.

Below we share some  of the key findings from the evaluation of the project.

Localised approaches

It is essential that approaches to CSE prevention among night time economy workers are  based on an assessment of local needs and  issues. Across the 14 sites we found that approaches were diverse – using local intelligence and pragmatic approaches to identify where the Barnardo’s teams were most likely to be effective. This finding can be applied to any community raising awareness approach. Previous research, the Families and Communities against Sexual   Exploitation  study, supports the idea of community needs assessments being based on clearly defined aims and objectives. Localised approaches have been shown to be important and effective in training delivery and increasing awareness of CSE. In the Nightwatch project Barnardo’s workers gathered local intelligence and connected with managers and grassroots level workers to deliver training and raise awareness among the public and private sector in appropriate ways.

Flexible responses

Flexibility in response to community need is also essential, including flexibility of training delivery and awareness raising strategies. Barnardo’s practitioners emphasised that the core messages were focused on CSE, but that they delivered these messages in a practical manner with the methods that generated the biggest impact. Many undertook outreach to raise awareness of the project and offer advice, support, training and guidance, rather than just simply focussing on a classroom-based training approach.

‘Flexibility is important, you’re not just looking at Monday to Friday 9 to 5, because in this day and age we don’t do that now, people work shift work, they split shifts, they’ve got different hours, some might need to do 10/12 hours, so you’ve got the ability to say we might need to deliver it or need to do this on a certain day on a certain night and it won’t be a regular Monday to Friday sort of delivery’  ( Research participant).

Flexibility was therefore needed for training and awareness approaches and the times of day these took place.

Strengths based approaches

There is still a lot of stigma around CSE. This stigma is focussed upon victims and perpetrators. So in some areas particular audiences were initially very wary of the training. They felt that they were being trained because CSE was their ‘fault’ and that they were being unfairly targeted. In one of the pilot areas, taxi drivers were prominent examples of this issue. In response a friendly, non-judgemental, strength-based approach which did not seek to unfairly blame  was crucial. The evaluation found that the ability to adopt such an approach did result in ‘buy-in’ from night time economy staff and also supported a joint approach in tackling CSE.

Overall we found the need to build good relationships was a key message  about  what is needed to ensure a joint approach to tackling CSE in the community context of  night time economy workers. Ultimately, if the work is underpinned by positive relationships and night time economy workers are engaged directly in the process, their understanding of potentially dangerous situations increases. In this way workers can become more empowered to keep children and young people safe.

Nightwatch was described by one of the police officers who took part in the project as the ‘eyes and ears of everybody on the street’. The legacy of Nightwatch is that it has brought attention to the ways in which awareness can be raised sensitively among night time economy workers and offered a process and the necessary materials and resources to do so.

For more information see the full report of the  Night watch evaluation  here.