Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Answer to Oxford

We will have to wait for the report of the Serious Case Review to get a clearer picture of what went wrong in the Oxford grooming sex case. 

I expect that there will be a lot of pundits calling for better information sharing and more integrated working, but the truth of the matter, I suspect, is that the cause of the tragedy was that the girls were not listened to when they should have been listened to.

I think the Children's Society’s Matthew Reed has it about right. He is quoted by the BBC as saying that professionals and agencies need to “… change their attitude to vulnerable, exploited teenage girls, who are being routinely dismissed as ‘troublesome’ or ‘promiscuous’ or as having made life style choices”.

We should all be thinking long and hard about how we can make it easier and safer for children and young people to report abuse and to seek help and support. And we should be asking children and young people to help us in designing services. Current bureaucratic approaches – ‘referrals’ and ‘investigations’ and ‘enquiries’ and ‘assessments’ – probably cut no ice with vulnerable young people. What they need is people they can trust to deliver appropriate help.

Some years ago I co-authored a report about ‘information sharing’. We titled it “I think it’s about trust … “ because that is what one of our respondents (a teenage girl who had suffered abuse) told us. [1]

We need to design services that children and young people trust more. That’s the answer to Oxford.

[1] Zoe Hilton and Chris Mills ‘I think it’s about trust’: the views of young people on information sharing. London: Office of the Children’s Commissioner, September 2006 – to download a pdf, Google ‘I think it’s about trust’ and follow the link.