Building a Bridge of Trust: The role of peer education in tackling Child Sexual Exploitation
I’m delighted to introduce this report on ‘Building a Bridge of Trust’ at a time when the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation has become such an important subject for us all. Recent high profile cases and subsequent media coverage have reinforced the need for a holistic solution to what has become an important issue nationally. There is a responsibility on us all to have greater awareness and understanding, ensuring that the vulnerable in our society are safe from exploitation. It is not just the role of social care professionals, health professionals, the police and teachers; it falls to us all. The challenge on professionals is to ensure that there is greater awareness of the issue, at risk people are identified quickly and appropriate intervention is taken to prevent exploitation. Young people who have experienced Child Sexual Exploitation need appropriate care and support. With public sector budgets continually under greater pressure against the backdrop of risk around Child Sexual Exploitation, it is falling to Public Sector organisations to find more innovative and cost effective ways to carefully manage such an important issue. Greater partnership working is one of those solutions.
Clearly, greater awareness and understanding is the preventative part of addressing the issue. Peer Education is a proven and tested model that engages young people in a structured and informative way. It is a helpful tool to raise awareness and understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation amongst young people in a way that they understand; in their way and in their setting. It uses trained and experienced young people to deliver important messages in a style that engages and delivers results. Straight Talking has been delivering peer education (for almost 18 years) in schools and other educational settings. We understand what is important to young people and what makes a difference. Peers have the credibility that is crucial to them being listened to and their advice heeded. In my role as Head of Change and Programme Management for Westminster City Council, I recognise the importance of effective education and safeguarding.