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The barriers to and opportunities for, hearing the voice of the young person in multi-agency work in cases of Child Sexual Exploitation

Davies, Alison 2022. The barriers to and opportunities for, hearing the voice of the young person in multi-agency work in cases of Child Sexual Exploitation. DSW Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The thesis examines a social problem currently referred to in the United Kingdom as child sexual exploitation (CSE). This study’s broad aim is to understand the extent to which young people who have experienced CSE (hereafter ‘CSE-experienced young people’) have been listened to and responded to by professionals. The study asks how professionals feel they have listened to young people's wishes and feelings and how these have been included. A further aim is to explore how young people's voices have been represented or heard in decision-making meetings about them and to elicit new data on the issues young people face when trying to assert agency during these decision-making meetings. The study is intended to be highly relevant to my professional practice. A small qualitative study was carried out in Wales. The research explores the operation of lead multi-agency and collaborative professionals whose role is to safeguard and protect children at risk of, or who have suffered, sexual exploitation. It has focused on young people's experiences and multi-agency cooperation among four statutory agencies: children's social services, police, education, and health. The study also draws on the experience of professionals and young people from two therapeutic third sector projects specifically designed to support CSE-experienced young people. The research methods used are semi-structured interviews and observations of multi-agency meetings. The originality of the study is the combination of three elements of data collection – a) the voice of the young person, b) the voice of the professional, and c) the observation of decision-making multi-agency meetings concerning young people and their input therein. Analysis of the findings suggests that for young people to be heard and have dynamic intentional agency in decision-making meetings, there needs to be systemic and organisational change for more co-production, inclusion and multi-agency training, and multi-agency co-located teams. The CSE professionals acknowledged that the exchange of sex and CSE could impact other exploitative behaviours and that exploitation met those needs of young people which were not being addressed in other parts of their lives. Young people in this study wanted professionals to understand their choices and the complexity of their decisions. They wanted to be recognised as young people with agency and voice. The more agency young people have, the more they can advise professionals about what would keep them safe. In addition, the professional multi-agency default response to CSE-experienced young people was one of protection and safeguarding, which narrows the focus from inclusion and away from the holistic picture of meeting broader needs, thus minimising young people's voice, choice, control, and inclusion. Empowerment and hearing the voice of young people are strongly advocated by multi-agency professionals. On this basis, it is recommended that genuine commitment to hearing the young person's voice must include young people's lived experience, which should be integral to reviewing and shaping Welsh policy and practice, and further research is needed which could strengthen the effectiveness of the inclusion and intentional agency of young people in other multi-agency situations.

Item Type: Thesis (DSW)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 31 January 2023
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2024 05:37

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