We are asking young Londoners to thrive in a city with huge inequalities, where opportunities for many are non-existent.
The needs of young Londoners are unique to each child or young person, but one common thread among them all is the profound impact austerity has on their lives and the services available to them. This is compounded by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, and it is painfully evident how this affects the daily lives of countless young Londoners.
The lingering impact of the pandemic continues to affect the emotional wellbeing of many young Londoners. The harm that extends beyond the confines of young Londoners’ homes, makes the experience of living in the city difficult for many young Londoners who struggle to find hope and opportunities. All these factors mentioned simply compound year on year.
To put it simply, we are asking young Londoners to thrive in a city with huge inequalities, where opportunities for many are non-existent. Employment opportunities are limited for some, housing is scarce for all, and there are places that remain unsafe for many young Londoners.
Sherry Peck, Safer London CEO
While Safer London may not have the power to repair the cracks in the dam itself, what we can do is scaffold a comprehensive programme of support around each young Londoner.
Our person-centred, trauma-informed approach allows us to build a unique programme of support around each child or young person or parent/carer. This then acts as a buoy, enabling them to float or even rise above the turbulent waters they face.
By providing tailored support, we can empower young Londoners to overcome their challenges with resilience and purpose and navigate towards a brighter future.
A rise in complex cases
There’s no denying that the issues and pressure that young Londoners and their families face aren’t going away. The cracks in the dam are progressively expanding.
Over the past year, we have witnessed a substantial rise in complex cases, accompanied by an unprecedented surge in safeguarding concerns. Something that is not isolated to Safer London. Young Londoners are requiring prolonged and comprehensive support, involving the collective efforts of various Safer London professionals.
Last year, we recorded a total of 756 safeguarding concerns, marking a substantial increase of 206 from the previous year. Of these 756 concerns 158 were “need to knows” raised. “Need to knows” are the most serious safeguarding concerns, and include such incidents as suicide attempts, carrying a weapon or sexual and criminal violence.
Recognising the increased need, we developed and rolled out new in-house safeguarding training. Finding that existing training was too generic this new package was tailored to align with our insights into the challenges faced by those we work alongside, while also aligning with our internal safeguarding processes.
They were very kind, nonjudgmental and supportive
"My Caseworker helped me realise things that I could do to help myself and make changes which would positively impact my life. They made sure I had a choice of when and how our sessions would work, which made me feel more at ease. They made sure I was comfortable and if I wasn’t ready to talk about something they would wait until I was. They were very kind, nonjudgmental and supportive.
I have learnt that I need to work on setting boundaries and keeping them. After my support I know I can trust in myself and know what I am worth.
Looking to the future, I can’t wait to see what happens with my future education at sixth form and law school."
Young Londoner who accessed Safer London’s services and support
How we responded to what we saw
While we acknowledge we can’t fix the emerging cracks in the dam, we can certainly make concerted efforts to better support young Londoners and their families whose lives have been impacted by the issues. By doing so, we can provide young Londoners with a greater opportunity for a positive future.
Last year we did the following:
- In collaboration with our partners and funders, we implemented measures to ensure that our Caseworkers work with young Londoners over extended periods. This means that young Londoners who work with our team can receive support for up to two years with a consistent worker by their side.
- Recognising the broader contexts that shape the lives of young Londoners, we set out to establish innovative models of service delivery and interventions. This included new intervention design centred around peer groups and the places and spaces whereyoung Londoners spend their time.
- The utilisation of specialist caseworkers is not a new concept for Safer London. We have long had specialists in areas such as wellbeing andhousing, and last year we expanded our team to include additional specialists in Boys and Young Men affected by Sexual Exploitation, as well as Education, Employment, and Training.
- In response to the complexity of cases, we introduced new Expert Caseworkers roles. These individuals possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to effectively assist young Londoners presenting with the highest-level needs.
- To amplify youth voices and encourage active participation, we partnered with youth voice experts Participation People. Together, we nurtured and empowered a team of young champions known as the Safer London VIPs. The VIPs played an integral role in helping usaddress significant challenges and confront them head-on.
- We know that the safeguarding of those affected by violence, exploitation and abuse necessitates the sharing of knowledge and insights with others. Embracing a spirit of inclusive and generous leadership, we crafted toolkits and comprehensive guides, aiming to disseminate our successful service models and delivery approaches. Our intention is to inspire others to replicate these practices, thereby fostering collective progress in safeguarding efforts.
- Young Londoners aren’t hard to engage, services and support can be hard to engage with. We worked to upskill our team so we could become an AMBIT influenced organisation, and in turn allowing us to connect and work alongside more young Londoners.
1. Trust is the key to success and building trust takes time
The duration for interventions provided by voluntary sector services for children and young people affected by violence and exploitation is typically six months. However, establishing effective communication alone can take months, with additional time required to gradually cultivate trust. Therefore, the current standard intervention timeframe falls short.
As the result of insightful discussions, we were able to advocate for extended interventions for young Londoners for up to two years, to meet the specific needs.
- Up to 12 months intervention for young Londoners and parents/carers affected by violence and exploitation.
- Up to two years intervention for young Londoners affected by criminal and sexual violence who are involved in ongoing investigations or an active court case.
Moving forward, we are enlisting the expertise of external specialists to conduct a thorough review of our internal practices.
This evaluation will focus on examining the cultivation and development of trusted relationships. Insights from this will inform our future planning, enhance the sustainability of our work, and guide its evolution.
2. Diverse array of needs necessitates the expertise of various specialists
We expanded our team by welcoming new Specialist Caseworkers. Among them were practitioners experienced in working with boys and young men impacted by sexual exploitation.
Additionally, our team now includes Caseworkers and internal advisors, whose specialty and focus is on providing support to young Londoners with educational, employment, and training needs.
- 239 the number of times specialist internal support was accessed. This includes when a Specialist Caseworker is allocated as a secondary worker and when advice is sought from a Specialist Caseworker internally.
- 178 young Londoners and parents/carers received one to one support from a Safer London Specialist Caseworker.
Our existing offer is solid and robust, but we know there’s more that can be done to support and empower young Londoners. Our vision for the future involves bolstering our team with additional caseworkers, whose specialised expertise will cater to specific needs and areas of support.
This includes Developing specialist knowledge and expertise around extremism and radicalisation.
3. Complex cases require support from knowledgeable and experienced experts
Last year, we focused on establishing new roles for Expert Caseworkers, assembling a team of skilled professionals who possess the necessary experience and knowledge to effectively support those with the highestpresenting needs.
The Expert Caseworkers specialise in the areas of:
- Criminal exploitation
- Sexual exploitation
- Housing and resettlement
- Harmful Sexual Behaviours
- Criminal violence
- Sexual violence
Support and advocacy through the Criminal Justice System
Young Londoners who find themselves either as victims or perpetrators of crime and violence often lack comprehension of the processes and procedures involved in the Criminal Justice System. It is evident that young Londoners in this position require expert support that addresses their unique needs.
Safer London’s Expert Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice and Sexual Violence Caseworkers have an understanding and knowledge of the Criminal Justice System, allowing them to provide advocacy for young Londoners with open police cases and court proceedings.
They also support young Londoners to build the resilience required to navigate through what is often a very lengthy and sometimes brutal process. Our Caseworkers will be there for them, assisting young Londoners throughout their entire journey - however long it takes.
We are confident in the strength of our current team of Expert Caseworkers.
However, we recognise the increasing demand for this elevated level of support among numerous young Londoners with complex and intersecting needs.
In the upcoming year, our plan is toIn the upcoming year, our plan is to expand our team of Experts, including those who will work specifically with those who are neurodivergent or have SEND.
4. Supporting those with multiple needs requires an adaptive approach
We strongly believe that embracing the principles of AMBIT is not only crucial but also highly significant for Safer London.
Our aim is to leverage this approach to foster interconnectedness throughout the entire organisation, enabling us to have a common language for discussing our work and promoting the highest standards of practice. This will empower us to enhance our collective impact and drive forward the mission of Safer London.
- We integrated AMBIT materials into our direct practice, prioritising sustainability.
- AMBIT has become a mandatory training session for all new starters at Safer London. This ensures that from the moment they join the organisation, they are equipped with the tools and mindset to apply this approach effectively.
- We established AMBIT surgeries, led by our internal AMBIT experts, as a platform for open dialogue and knowledge exchange. These drop-in sessions provide a supportive space for the team to ask questions freely and learn from one another.
As we move into the future, our focus will be on evaluating the effectiveness of embedded AMBIT practices. To achieve this, we are dedicated to developing case studies which will allow us to assess the impact and effectiveness of the AMBIT framework. So, we can understand the positive impact it makes for both our team and the young Londoners and families they work alongside.
Beyond this we will proactively engage in horizon scanning, ensuring that our workforce development plan is always shaped by the latest emerging approaches or incorporates the latest innovative training.
5. Embedding youth voice through youth action
Last year, we forged a partnership with Participation People, established experts in amplifying youth voices, to foster a culture of youth voice and participation within Safer London.
Our primary objective is to inspire every single person who works at Safer London, urging them to explore innovative ways of harnessing youth voice. By doing so, we aim to reshape their approach towards their work and, more importantly, to guarantee that the voices of young Londoners are valued in matters that deeply concern them.
- 14 young Londoners engaged with the VIP programme and were active youth voice champions.
- 51 volunteer hours reflecting the significant amount of time invested in actively engaging and connecting with the VIPs, as well as the dedication from the VIPs themselves.
- 22 youth voice sessions out of which 17 were consultations 22 with Safer London senior leaders.
- 2 collaborative sessions were facilitated with external partners and funders. This provided a platform for the VIPs to actively engage in the broader discourse surrounding violence and exploitation in London.
- 10 young Londoners aged 12 to 10 18 participated in Safer London's first VIP BIG Takeover week, where 5 big business challenges were tackled head on.
Safer London BIG takeover week
Last year we hosted our first VIP BIG takeover week. The event provided an opportunity for these VIPs to lead discussions on important business challenges through sessions, brainstorming, and creative activities.
In order to uphold accountability, we monitored actions, and have planned future activities where we will continuously review these actions, making sure we are staying true to our word.
Going forward we are creating mechanisms whereby anyone who has accessed or been offered our services and support can feedback to us.
We will provide opportunities to feedback at multiple stages of a young Londoner’s journey with us, including those who opt not to work with us or those who initially choose to work with us but later withdraw from our support.
6. Adopting contextual safeguarding approaches to strengthen safety
Last year we introduced two new Expert Development and Delivery workers whose work is dedicated to developing Contextual Safeguarding interventions. Our aim is to create a model that sits outside the conventional methods employed in prevention group work, as well as a place-based intervention which will empower communities to keep the places young Londoners live, play and work safe. The ultimate goal is to develop new models and approaches that create lasting change in communities, as well within a young Londoner’s peer networks.
To make this work we’ve worked collaboratively with academics, sector professionals, and Safer London’s youth participation group.
Cultivating innovation through youth voice
Last year we started this journey by working closely with the Safer London young Londoner VIPs. Together, we led a collaborative session that delved into the themes of peers and places, within the context of safety and harm.
Through creative safety and peer mapping exercises, we examined peer networks through the dual lens of safety and wellbeing, as well as looked at the places and spaces where young Londoners feel safe versus unsafe. Engaging discussions helped us to understand what solutions the VIPs felt could be put in place to improve community safety, as well as how peer dynamics are seen through the eyes of a child or young person.
This initial consultation phase ensures that our engagement remains rooted in the insights of the true experts - children and young people. Their perspectives are vital in understanding how to build interventions and approaches that that work for them.
In the coming year, we will further develop these innovatIve approaches and then test them. As an organisation committed to fostering a culture of proactive knowledge sharing with others, we will then share what we’ve learnt.
As a test site for the Innovate Project for Contextual Safeguarding, we have also committed to support the development of resources, to aide others wanting to adopt Contextual Safeguarding in their work with young people.
7. Sharing our knowledge through generous leadership
Last year we produced two guides, based on models and approaches of service delivery.These two guides shared our learning experiences, building on where we got it right – as well as where we can improve.
With resources and templates, these resources can guide professionals to safeguard and support those affected by violence, exploitation and abuse.
- Beyond the Banter: A Professionals’ Guide
Building on the success of the award-winning ‘Beyond the Banter’ Safer London created a comprehensive guide for professionals.
This resource aims to explore how the peer-led approach can be tailored and implemented to benefit various groups of children and young individuals, extending its impact beyond its initial target audience.
- Unlocking Doors: A Professional’s toolkit for establishing managed housing reciprocals
After operating the Pan London Housing Reciprocal for five years, we set out to develop a comprehensive toolkit designed to guide and assist professionals. So they could set up and establish a managed housing reciprocal, to support social housing tenants fleeing violence, abuse and exploitation based on local need. Thus extending the reach of this important scheme.
Looking ahead, we will be building upon the success of the Beyond the Banter model and tailoring its approach to support young women and girls who’ve been impacted by criminal exploitation.
This adaptation reflects our dedication to addressing their unique needs and offering them the assistance they deserve, by using an innovative peer led approach.
She did not judge me
"My overall experience with Safer London was good because it made me talk more and it has kept me safe.
Seeing my Caseworker each week helped me as she always showed up with a smile on her face. I felt supported when I wasn't being safe online and she helped me figure out how to be safe online.
She did not judge me either.
My Caseworker taught me the five senses grounding technique and breathing to calm me down, which I will use going forward. I also learnt how to be a good friend and what a healthy and unhealthy relationship is."
Young Londoner who accessed Safer London’s services and support
Average score at the start of the intervention 3 →Average score at the end of the intervention 4
To gain an understanding of a young Londoner’s physical safety, Caseworkers ask questions that explore the spaces and places where young Londoners spend their time. Together, they discuss where young Londoners could experience harm and whether the young Londoner feels they are able to safely navigate that environment – whether that be in the physical or online world.
Average score at the start of the intervention 2 →Average score at the end of the intervention 3
To assess emotional safety, Caseworkers engage in discussions with young Londoners asking questions around how they manage and navigate their emotions, feelings and responses during challenging and difficult times. These conversations also serve as a collaborative exploration of the young Londoner’s self-perception and self-worth.
Average score at the start of the intervention 2 → Average score at the end of the intervention 4
To measure relational safety, Caseworkers talk to young Londoners about their peer relationships. Specifically they focus their questions around healthy versus unhealthy relationships, as well as whether young Londoners can identify risks within their peer networks, as well as where they can go to for sources of safety and support.
At the end of the intervention, 73% of young Londoners felt they had a clear idea of what they wanted for themselves in the future and had a clear idea of how to achieve it.
Once their support with safer London came to an end, 85% of young Londoners felt they were on a path to being able to pursue and work towards their future goals.
She really listened to me
"My Caseworker helped me a lot. I was very shy before but now I am able to speak out more. I feel more confident at school, and I enjoy going to school now. I have made so many friends too.
My Caseworker was always so positive and happy. She always had a plan about what topics we were going to cover, and I made some decisions too. I was able to choose topics I felt I needed to work harder on - like about healthy relationships.
She really listened to me.
I have not had many people who have really listened to me but she did and I am so happy I could work with her. I have learnt a lot. I have learnt it is okay to take a moment to calm down before I get too angry and that my feelings matter."
Young Londoner who accessed Safer London’s services and support
Self-reflection holds great significance.
It allows us to gain valuable insights from our past experiences, which in turn shapes our path for the future. It encompasses not only acknowledging and celebrating our accomplishments, but also critically examining areas that require further growth and development.
Each year we set ourselves three big aims. Here’s how we fared against what we set out to achieve last year.
1. Further our journey to becoming a fully trauma responsive organisation and making steps towards it.
Last year, we took a significant step forward in our journey to become a fully trauma informed organisation by engaging the expertise of Betsy De Thierry, a renowned trauma recovery trainer and consultant.
By delivering a comprehensive programme of trauma training for the entire Safer London team, from those providing direct support to our central resources team, we are ensuring that a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the effects of trauma and its manifestations in young Londoners is permeated throughout every aspect of Safer London.
2. We want to work in partnership with community organisations to grow real local responses to violence and exploitation.
As a London wide organisation operating on a substantial scale, we currently lack those community connections. To bridge this gap, we recognised the need to collaborate and partner with established organisations and groups already embedded in local communities.
Last year we partnered with Code 7 to facilitate peer group initiatives in Lambeth’s communities. With strong roots in the community and locally respected teams, Code 7 is well positioned to deliver this form of outreach on our behalf. Building on this partnership we are now in the early stages of exploring and establishing a parents network in Lambeth. This peer support network will allow parents affected by violence and exploitation to support one another.
Furthermore, we widened our own networks of grassroots and community organisations, building relationships with culturally sensitive organisations. This allows us to refer those we work alongside to services and support that are tailored and equipped to address their specific needs.
3. Our services and delivery will be shaped by young Londoners, and we will build pathways for them to influence delivery, development and decision making.
Last year we set out to ensure the VIPs were central to how we worked and that they gained exposure to a range of Safer London colleagues, from practitioners right up to the CEO. We have witnessed youth voice grow and develop over the past few years, showing real benefits not just for us as an organisation, but for the young Londoners who are part of the VIP group.
We wanted to find a visually engaging way to showcase what participation looks like at Safer London, and more importantly the difference it makes. So, we brought together the VIPs to create the Safer London Youth Voice & Participation tree.
Through collaborative discussion and creative activities we focussed on six main areas:
- The Seed: The purpose and motivation behind participation
- The Roots: Shared values for us and the VIPs
- The Trunk: What supports effective participation
- The Branches: How we facilitate successful
- The Leaves: The difference it makes – impact and outcomes
- The Sun and Rain: What allows participation to develop and grow
Our big three areas of focus as we enter the penultimate year of our strategy:
- Taking a closer look at the Safer London Front Door. we will look at carrying out an internal review of the Front Door, making sure it is efficient, effective and adequate for both professional and those who use our services. We will also look to share our learnings with others.
- Formalising a set of behaviours to enhance service delivery and support. This year we are developing our first behaviours framework. This framework will empower the entire Safer London team with a comprehensive understanding of what effective behaviours are required at different levels in the organisation.
- Continuously reviewing the landscape in which young Londoners operate and swiftly adapting to emerging themes with agility. our focus will be on developing new roles designed to cater to the specific requirements of young Londoners with neurodivergent needs.
when I look back and reflect on our accomplishments as an organisation my thoughts are always taken to the achievements made by the young Londoners we work alongside.
"Guided by fundamental principles, we place the safeguarding of young Londoners at the heart of everything we do. This is deeply rooted within our core one to one intervention work, an offer that is strong and robust.
Yet, we acknowledge that there is still more that needs to be done.
Looking to the future, we aim to strengthen our community intervention offer. Place-based interventions are relatively new terrain across the sector, and it takes time to develop initiatives that foster genuine sustainability within the community itself. However, we have assigned a dedicated worker to spearhead this work, and we are confident that we will make significant progress in the coming year.
Another priority in the coming year is an increased commitment to amplifying the voices of young Londoners. This includes putting the processes and support in place to make sure the issues that are important to them are heard by those who can influence and create change.
I am immensely proud of the entire Safer London team. Every single person who works here is dedicated and passionate about promoting the safety and welfare of young Londoners. But when I look back and reflect on our accomplishments as an organisation my thoughts are always taken to the achievements made by the young Londoners we work alongside.
These are young individuals who are having to navigate through incredibly tough environments. It is through their own resilience that they are able to find a positive focus for their future."
Sherry Peck, CEO
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: REINFORCING THE DAM
Although the risks of harm to children and young people can’t be eliminated, there is hope for the future. Work can be done to close those cracks and reinforce the dam.
This can only be done by working in collaboration. Together, we can strengthen the dam and divert future fractures. Government, both local and national, statutory services, third-sector organisations, and communities, as well as children and young people themselves, hold the key to change.
We’re calling for:
- Everyone to prioritise a safeguarding approach when working with children and young people. We must work to break down the preconceived notion of young people by labelling them as either victims or perpetrators. This will ensure that safeguarding never falls short and will avoid the criminalisation of children.
- Everyone to treat children and young people as such - children and young people. The adultification of children and young people is detrimental to their wellbeing and hinders their personal development. We must stop viewing them through the lens of adults.
- Policy and legislation that puts children’s rights front and centre. This must be informed by the voices and experiences of children and young people.
At Safer London, we firmly believe there can be a positive future for every child and young person affected by violence and exploitation. We will continue to work closely with all our partners and funders to ensure that young Londoners are getting the support they need.
A theme we consistently observe throughout our work is resilience. The young Londoners we work alongside display incredible resilience every day. The strength and determination to forge their paths toward a positive outcome are unparalleled.
This resilience is truly what allows young Londoners to rise above.
- Catch 22
- Charles S French Charitable Trust
- City Bridge Trust
- Code 7
- Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
- Exit Hate UK
- Help for Children UK
- Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)
- Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
- NHS South East London Integrated Care System
- Participation People
- Paul Hamlyn Foundation
- Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
- NHS South East London CCG
- Spitfire Audio
- The London Community Foundation
- The Master Poulter’s Pelican Trust
- Vanguard Group Foundation
- The many schools and individuals who fundraised to support our work.
Safer London Trustees 2022/2023
- Janine McDowell, Chair
- Fiona Hazell, Vice Chair
- André Campbell
- Anthony Gunter
- Fiona Hazell, Vice Chair
- Gemma Bailey
- Baroness Sally Hamwee
- Tim Jones
- Vaneesha Bailey
This report was made with support and input from:
- The Safer London VIPs
- Asani, Youth Voice and Participation Tree Illustrator
- Participation People
- Neck of the Woods Films
- The entire Safer London team
Safer London is a registered charity in England and Wales No. 1109444; and a company limited by guarantee No. 5190766.