In the wake of Rotherham, there is a great deal to think about in the new report on Child Sexual Exploitation from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.
It seems to me that the core of the problem is probably captured in a single sentence:
“Children’s voices are still not heard as part of the process. Investigation findings often provide an adult perspective and not that of the child.” (Page 24)
I also liked very much the emphasis on involving children and young people in the design of services. The report says:
“In too many areas, children are not being involved in the design and development of local measures to protect them from CSE. This is contrary to Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which states that children have a right to express their views on matters which affect them. Of those LSCBs with a CSE strategy, only 31% have involved children and young people in its design, and the participation of children has been described (as) ‘tokenistic’ by voluntary sector agencies.” (Page 7)
Of course that is something that could be said, and should apply, more widely. I believe that in order to provide high quality child protection services of all kinds it is necessary to involve children and young people, especially those who have experienced the services, in improving the design.
Services will never meet children’s needs if they are provided from an adult perspective. We all understand that a hotel that does not listen to feedback from its guests is likely to have a lot of vacancies. So why do we seem to find it so hard to accept that we will never appropriately safeguard children and promote their welfare unless we listen to them?