Newham council has developed an intensive youth support offer via the Youth Empowerment Service, which provides intensive youth support alongside the multi-agency and advocacy for young people up to age 25 at risk of exploitation and harm.
The offer was developed following an adolescent safeguarding learning review carried out in 2020, which examined joint working between Newham Council’s Housing and Youth Empowerment teams/Probation and Adults Services to support a young person at risk of exploitation.
While the case resulted in the young person being successfully housed, the housing and youth teams – supported by Newham Council’s cabinet member for housing - took the decision to proactively review their joint strategies and improve their joint response to vulnerability to exploitation.
This has led to a strengthened process, where young people who have been identified as being at risk of exploitation are referred to the relevant services where they can receive a co-ordinated response and accommodation where needed.
A range of partners, including the Youth Offending Team, Youth Service (Youth Empowerment Service) education services, and health services, have been supported to identify vulnerable young people using a multi-agency exploitation screening tool. Once a young person has been identified, partners can refer their case into Newham’s multi-agency safeguarding hub, which includes a collaborative approach with regards to decision making from a large number of professionals such as children social care, adult social services, housing, health/Youth Services and the police.
As well as referrals through the screening tool, Newham Council also receives self-referrals from young people directly. The council also attends a monthly Multi Agency Child Exploitation Panel and Police Tactical Meeting, where they hear new information about vulnerable young people in need of support. This provides a further opportunity for Newham to volunteer their support and broker a wider offer, where a young person is known to the council and has a trusted relationship with them.
Once the partnership has received a referral that identifies a safeguarding concern, a partnership meeting should be considered/convened and a safeguarding enquiry opened. However, young people don’t need to have had a formal safeguarding assessment completed to enter this process.
Looking at the details of each particular case, the partnership agrees which areas would be safe and suitable for a housing placement, taking into account where other young people have been placed to avoid potential safeguarding issues. The partnership then works intensively to find suitable accommodation in the chosen areas.
Since the Intensive Youth Support Offer was launched in September 2020, the process has successfully supported eight young people at risk of violence into accommodation, and worked through partnership case conferences and with trusted community organisations to provide holistic support. Overall, this offer has furnished young people with a pathway out of exploitation and away from gang violence. The effects on young people’s wellbeing, and their families’, has been huge, and the council continues to measure the impact of the programme on providing further opportunities and disrupting links with exploitative gangs.
The past nine months have also provided valuable learning about the challenges in securing appropriate accommodation, e.g., finding accommodation for a young person’s whole family, and finding accommodation quickly when a young person is at immediate risk of exploitation.
To fully embed this new approach, the council is now developing a new set of measures to strengthen joint working between the housing and youth empowerment teams. These include a single point of contact in the housing team for individuals at risk of exploitation; a new housing pathway for care leavers; a new joint assessment approach between housing and social care for homeless 16 and 17 year olds; a new Partnerships and Safeguarding Manager role to ensure that safeguarding is embedded in homelessness services; new information sharing arrangements; and the procurement of additional housing options for young people.
These actions will be published along with Newham’s new strategy at the end of the year and reviewed regularly by a steering group of senior managers from services including housing, social care and health.