Frontline stories: From our Child Sexual Exploitation Outreach Worker

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I spoke with our Child Sexual Exploitation Outreach Worker Maisy about the way lockdown has changed how she undertakes her role. Maisy works with girls (11-18 yrs) at risk of sexual exploitation and usually holds some of her support groups in school settings. School closures have presented new challenges and she explains how she is supporting our clients and adjusting the support she provides for those in most need.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and Maisy always priorities self-care to her clients. She says:

 

“Be kind to yourself, as it is the only version of you there is. Love, care for and cherish yourself; listen to your body to understand what it needs to heal. We must invest kindness in ourselves, to invest kindness in others. “

 

How has your role changed during lockdown?

I am unable to deliver any groups due to schools being closed. I’m also finding it difficult to engage with my clients as to many of them don’t have access to a phone, so it means either speaking to them using a parent’s phone (and they are being supervised so can’t speak openly) or not being able to get in contact with them.

How are you supporting clients?

I am checking in with my clients weekly by either phone call/text/social media. We also created distraction packs for the young people to try to reduce the amount of time they are spending on social media and improve their emotional health and wellbeing. By reducing the amount of time spent online, we are reducing the risk of online exploitation, which has increased during the lockdown period.

What challenges are our clients facing during lockdown?

A lot of the young people I’m working with are missing being at school. This is where their friends are and where they feel safe. A few of them weren’t able to finish their last days at school, or take their GCSEs or have their prom, which has had a real impact on their emotions. They have worked so hard over the last year or so and are feeling deflated by this. A lot of the young people are bored and resorting to online/social media to cure their boredom. However, the impact of social media on a young person’s emotional health is massive and it also increases their risk of online exploitation.

Your lockdown challenges

Young people can be reluctant to engage with people like outreach workers and it can take weeks of assertive communication to begin to build that relationship with them. Referrals have increased since the lockdown period but the girls don’t necessarily want to engage in the support they need. Plus it is not appropriate to have some of the discussions needed around CSE over the phone as you can’t hold young people safely emotionally.

What are your wellbeing tips for keyworkers and clients?

Maintain healthy work boundaries, you are not working from home, you are at home working. Now is a time where were all extremely vulnerable ourselves, so it is so important to ensure we are taking care of ourselves, in order to take care of the people we work with.

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