This month’s Swiis support group focused on Safe. We had invited the manager from the 18 and under’s project in Dundee to come and talk to our foster carers.

The focus of this session was children who are at risk of being sexually exploited. The Scottish government have recently released the “Scotland’s National Action Plan to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation”, to which Aileen Campbell, the Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People stated: “Child Sexual Exploitation is as much a reality here in Scotland as it is around the world – a reality that we, as a nation, must tackle collectively. All children and young people have the right to be cared for and protected from harm, and to grow up in a safe environment where their rights and needs are respected. I am therefore pleased tohare ‘Scotland’s National Action Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation’. It represents a comprehensive and ambitious strategy for addressing this complex challenge. It builds on work that has been happening across Scotland, bringing together examples of local best practice with national strategy, and will help us ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to put our commitment to protecting all our young people into action.”

The action plan states:

  • In order to prevent Child Sexual Exploitation as effectively as we can, we must do our best to understand as much about it as possible; the scale, nature, locus, victims and perpetrators of it.
  • It is essential that those people who work with children and young people, from teachers and social workers to medical staff, are properly supported and developed to recognise Child Sexual Exploitation, and those children who may be at increased risk from it.

This became the aim of the support group.

The under 18’s project are based in Dundee and provide free and confidential advice and information to young people. They offer a drop in service where young people can go to find out more about personal safety and abuse prevention.

For some carers this was a very new subject that they had little or no information about, for others they had experiences of working with children who have been sexually exploited. This allowed the carers to share their experiences and to learn from each other.

During the session the project manager spoke about how many children use the service, what they provide and the levels of confidentiality. The carers appeared very interested and it was an open forum for them to ask questions. The carers were particularly interested in the level of confidentiality the service provides.

They gave a hand-out to each carer of signs to look out for; this included missing from home, change in physical appearance, and receipt of gifts from unknown sources, repeat sexually transmitted diseases and many more. They then advised the carers on what they could do such as suggesting the young person attend their drop in or that the carers can phone for advice. They also told us of other projects in the area, such as Know 1, and Izzy’s project (all can be found online), and invited the carers to go down and see the premises.

They discussed how children in care are often targeted and how children need to be made aware of the danger and risk they may face. The 18 and under project has provided us with DVD’s that staff can use with children to raise their awareness.

We discussed the importance of using log books for recording as this would allow us to look for any concerning patterns in behaviour and also how this needs to be discussed with the carers supervising social worker.

The session was well received by the carers and they were all very enthusiastic about learning and about what the 18 and under project provided. Myself and the other worker present felt that it raised awareness of sexual exploitation, but in a way that allowed carers to look for signs and to identify supports available. We have now put this on the agenda for our team meeting to ensure that we are all looking for signs that children may be at risk of being sexually exploited more vigilantly moving forward.

If this has inspired you to consider fostering in Dundee or across Scotland, please get in contact with us by sending us an enquiry, or by phoning us on 0333 240 9049.