Hard to reach young people and agency neglect: Safeguarding teenagersPatrick AyreDepartment of Applied Social StudiesUniversity of Bedfordshire
The complexity of the challengeYoung people 14-18 may be Victims, Perpetrators Parents Any combination of the abovebut have the same right to be safeguarded as any other child.
The backgroundNational summary of Serious Case Reviews: The reviews showed that state care did not always support these young people fully and that they experienced agency neglect Brandon and others (2008).Two recent Norfolk Serious Case Reviews
The young peopleAdolescence marks start of serious problems for many children: Onset of mental health issuesFamily conflictDrug use, offendingSexual activityRunning away
The young people (Brandon and others)History of rejection, loss and, usually, severe maltreatmentLong term intensive involvement from multiple agencies Parents: history of abuse and current mental health and substance issuesDifficult to contain in schoolTypically self-harming and misusing substances, often self-neglect
The young people (Brandon and others)Numerous placement breakdowns Running away, going missingRisk of dangerous sexual activity including exploitationSometimes placed in specialist settings, only to be withdrawn because of running away
The young people (My experience)Long involvement, but not always intense Sometimes few placements, but all wrecked by the young person Common factor that local services just did not know what to do with them. By the time of the incident, for many of the young people, little or help was being offered because agencies appeared to have run out of helping strategies (Brandon and others, 2008).
The responseReluctance to identify mental illness and suicidal intent (CAMHS)Failure to respond in a sustained way to extreme distress manifested in risky behaviour (sex, drugs, suicide attempts)Arguing between agencies about responsibility and thresholdsReasons for running not addressed adequately
The responseRunning away leads to discharge [More generally, does rejection of services lead to total abandonment?]Age used as a reason for not imposing services No proper assessment of competence; allowed/forced to choose; [Dealing with incidents but failing to recognise patterns]
The obstaclesHard to get a purchase on the systemWrong children, wrong adults (Ayre, 2000)Lack of off-the-shelf resourcesThe limited resources are poorly coordinated and integratedGovernment targets not child centred or child drivenDifferent agency agendas and mutual misunderstanding; falling down the gap
The solutions?Thats what we are hear to explore!Biehal (2005) recommends adolescent support teams in the community [but is that enough?]The complexity of the challenge requires flexible collaborative, individualised responses built around the young person
ReferencesAyre P. and Barrett D. (2000) Young people and prostitution: An end to the beginning?, Children and Society 14, 48-59 Biehal, N. (2005) Working with Adolescents: Supporting Families, Preventing Breakdown, London: BAAF.Brandon, M, Belderson, P, Warren, C, Howe, D, Gardner, G, Dodsworth J and Black J (2008) Analysing child deaths and serious injury through abuse and neglect: what can we learn? London: Department for Children, Schools and Families
.Does anyone think yps aged 14-18 receive as good a safeguarding service as younger children. Why have we been content to close our eyes to the inequalities?All are children within the meaning of the legislation and guidance and ECM tells us that they all matter. We cant pick and chose to deliver those services which are easiest. Why? Not bad people, not uncaring. Today is to explore why and decide what we are going to do about itBefore we can find out why, we need to explore who. Who are these yp that we are talking about?Alistair: Do we reject/pathologise them when they fail us? Every child has a right to experiment, to mess up. The distinctive thing about these young people is that when they fall, there has been no one there to catch them. CP cases closed, yps abandoned12 yr old, 13 and 15 yr old allowed to live at home alone. Allowed to vote with feet.The danger of the label streetwise.Boy released from secure accommodation to insecure accommodationPoor use of case history: rapist, girl sent back to her fatherThe safeguarding system is generally structured to respond more effectively with the range of problems associated with a vulnerable and damaged two year old who has been neglected by a mother with learning difficulties than those faced by a vulnerable and damaged sixteen year old, who lives on the streets, has a heroin habit and whose only source of income is prostitution. Much of the culture and many of the services characteristic of child protection have emerged in response to the stereotypical image of a helpless child victim in need of rescue. The degree of fit between this stereotype and many older teenagers involved in child prostitution may be particularly poor and this may significantly prejudice their chances of having their needs prioritised and met. It is not only their age, but also, in some cases, their wider behavioural and social characteristics which may pose a challenge to the victim concept. Aggressive, streetwise, anarchic young people who steal and do drugs as well as prostitution do not conform obviously to our idealised image of a child in need and little priority may be accorded to this area of work. Those actively involved include health visitors, paediatricians, school nurses, teachers and social workers in child care teams, whereas sexual health nurses, the youth and careers services, substance misuse services, housing agencies and social workers who specialise in work with adolescents are only irregularly involved and lack experience and confidence. It must be recognised that meeting the needs of this group presents an enormous challenge, and that it is inconceivable that, in practical reality, all the services required fully to achieve this will ever be available off the peg. That being so, it is essential that all relevant agencies be prepared to respond flexibly and creatively to meet the particular needs identified in individual cases. Such flexibility needs to be built on strong and resilient foundations of trust and mutual understanding, and it is not clear that these are fully developed at present. It must be recognised that meeting the needs of this group presents an enormous challenge, and that it is inconceivable that, in practical reality, all the services required fully to achieve this will ever be available off the peg. That being so, it is essential that all relevant agencies be prepared to respond flexibly and creatively to meet the particular needs identified in individual cases. Such flexibility needs to be built on strong and resilient foundations of trust and mutual understanding, and it is not clear that these are fully developed at present.