top of page
All features

Effective multi-agency working when responding to child exploitation

Speaking at the COMPASS Jobs Fair social work event last week, Dr Sarah Lloyd, Trainer and Consultant, explained issues around current approaches to dealing with child exploitation.


Effective multi-agency working when responding to child exploitation

From the age of 14, Fiona Ivison was groomed, then coerced into prostitution by a known perpetrator.

When she was 17, Fiona was murdered by a client. Her murderer is serving a life sentence but the man who exploited her was never charged.

Her mother, Irene, had spent years asking social services for help but this was refused because they were seen as a ‘good’ family, and her daughter’s relationship with her pimp was seen as consensual.

In 1996, Irene Ivison and parents in similar situations formed the charity now known as PACE (Parents Against Child Exploitation). In a seminar at the COMPASS Jobs Fair, London Dr Sarah Lloyd, trainer and consultant with PACE, looked at ways agencies can work with parents to be effective in combatting child sexual exploitation.

“The current approach to dealing with children sexual exploitation is not fit for purpose because the focus is on the family and what it is about them that caused their child to be exploited,” Dr Lloyd said.

She described this as devastating for parents and makes them fearful that they will lose their child.

PACE offers training in contextual safeguarding, addressing abuse in which the home can be a relatively safe environment. “But where the harm takes place outside; in school, in corridor culture, through sexual harassment, bullying; or they are being exploited by individuals in their community, in the cinema or the park.”

The approach at PACE sees the parent as a key safeguarding partner, while meeting their needs as parents of an exploited child.

PACE began as CROP – (the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping) and was run by parents for parents. It gave telephone support and set up self-help groups. It continues this work and enables parents and professionals to work in partnership to safeguard a child at risk of sexual exploitation.

Integral to PACE’s activities today is the Relational Safeguarding Model, which safeguards children, and aims to disrupt and convict perpetrators. It assumes that parents want to, and have the capacity to protect their child, unless there is evidence to the contrary. It brings together parents whose children are at risk, social services, health, police and children’s charities to share experiences, resources and information.

The aim remains to create robust safeguarding plans that address the extra familial risk and to ensure accountability for all involved.

A key element is to use the information gathered across the various services, from parents and from children themselves to target and disrupt the offenders and locations, while planning for the recovery and safety of the child and family.

“Blaming the parent means that the barriers go up,” Dr Lloyd said. “It is not a holistic safeguarding plan unless you have everyone round the table. Parents have a fount of information about offenders, locations, phone numbers…”

Dr Lloyd discussed PACE’s three main programmes: the National Parents Support Team, the Parent Liaison Officers Programme, and the Parent Participation Programme.

Evaluations showed that the programmes had increased parents’ knowledge and understanding of grooming and CSE. “We helped parents regain a bit of control in a situation of complete helplessness. One parent told us, ‘I laugh now more than I cry. I don’t wake up crying any more.’”

The Parent Liaison Officers Programme had helped parents improve relationships with their children. The parents said that talking to the Parent Liaison Officers was not seen as being a ‘grass’, and the information gathered in this way was invaluable in helping target offenders.

PACE research found that
- 95% of parents felt listened to
- 92% of parents felt informed and consulted with
- 90% felt better able to cope with their child.
- 90% of parents had improved understanding of child sexual exploitation and the control the abuser has over the child
- 71% said that they were more able to resolve conflict with their child
- 90% of parents felt less isolated.

Evaluation of the Parent Participation Programme, showed parents had been able to build stronger relationships with other parents facing the same problems. They valued having someone from the independent voluntary sector to work with, and valued sharing expertise with key policymakers.

Sixty-three per cent of parents said that information they had provided to their PLO had been used by the police to disrupt the offenders.

From the professionals’ perspective, the parents were a unique and effective resource – one police officer commented that information about perpetrators would have been impossible to gather had it not been for liaison through PACE.

Dr Lloyd said that the PACE model is working and the evaluations show it is valuable to all involved in tackling child sexual exploitation.

Find out more about the work of PACE:

Paint on Face

Gloucestershire County Council

Deputy Team Manager

Job of the week

Sign up for an informal interview for this role today

£45,441 - £48,474


Featured event

Social World Podcast


30 Jan 2024

Instant access

Featured jobs


Supervising Social Worker

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Health and Justice Court Practitioner - Social Worker/AHP


Most popular articles today

Parents in substance use services need better care integration, research finds

Parents in substance use services need better care integration, research finds

Reflective supervision ‘best practice guide’ launches in Edinburgh

Reflective supervision ‘best practice guide’ launches in Edinburgh

First trial of new suicide prevention intervention designed for autistic people

First trial of new suicide prevention intervention designed for autistic people

Housing scheme for adults with learning disabilities to be adapted for care leavers

Housing scheme for adults with learning disabilities to be adapted for care leavers

Sponsored Content

What's new today:

Supporting social work students with additional needs during their placement

bottom of page