Piloting and Evaluating the ‘See Me, Hear Me’ Framework for working with Child Sexual Exploitation
The ‘See Me, Hear Me’ (SMHM) Framework sets out a child-centred multi-agency approach for preventing the sexual exploitation of children, which focuses on identifying, protecting and supporting the victims, disrupting and stopping perpetrators, securing justice for victims, and obtaining convictions.
Developed following a two-year Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Gangs and Groups by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) (Berelowitz, et al., 2013), the Framework was envisioned as a model of ‘end to end’ prevention and support which links strategic leadership and co-ordination with multi-agency safeguarding arrangements on the ground in order to confront the risk and impact of sexual exploitation of children. The OCC sought to test the efficacy of the framework for practice by commissioning a pilot implementation and evaluation project, which was awarded to the University of Sussex in 2014. The project had three primary aims:
1. To support the implementation of the ‘See Me, Hear Me’ Framework in each locality (a set of rights-based/relationship-focused principles for practice across the multi-agency system as a whole);
2. To evaluate the efficacy of the service model developed in the three sites and the impact it achieves for children;
3. To recommend ways in which the diffusion of this approach might be achieved effectively, across similar local authority areas and in respect of safeguarding practice in general.
In this brief, summative report we will focus on describing key findings and areas of learning identified in conducting the evaluation for this pilot project. We will discuss the contrasting approaches to multi-agency practice developed across the pilot sites to put the integration of children’s right to both a voice and to protection at the heart of the child protection process, and consider the implications of findings on the process of piloting the SMHM framework for current policy and practice development in child protection relevant to CSE and other vulnerabilities. These key findings may be briefly summarised as:
1. A core challenge in addressing CSE in a multi-agency context is the need to hold the tension between children’s right to safety and protection, and their right to participate in making decisions that affect them. Professionals felt able to hold this tension and effectively balance children’s rights to both protection and participation when they prioritized transparent, strengths and relationship-based practice, partnered effectively with parents and other agencies, and were provided with both time and space to do the work.
2. Practice systems can be effectively built around the child-centred SMHM principles; they are useful and practical for diverse professionals, and may provide consistency and unity in multi-agency work. Local practice systems can differ and still effectively apply SMHM principles, as no ideal practice system configuration emerged in this study. Instead, having the freedom to determine how a local practice system best meets the needs of children at risk of CSE enables the system to work more effectively, if careful attention is first given to the facilitating and constraining conditions present in the system.