The National Youth Agency (NYA) welcomes the publication of the new Practice Principles that will help shape and inform the work of professionals responding to child exploitation and extra-familial harm. The Practice Principles, published on 29th March 2023, support all practitioners working with young people to identify child exploitation risks, whilst giving them an understanding of how young people want professionals to work with them. Crucially, they emphasise a multi-agency approach to encourage a common language and framework for all services involved in working with children and young people.  

The youth sector has been widely engaged in designing the eight Practice Principles through online workshops and focus groups, to ensure that the Practice Principles reflect youth work values and principles. A youth worker is trained to explore the contextual factors surrounding a young person and develop their knowledge of the local community to recognise pressures and tensions that could impact on a young person’s life. This is intrinsic to the youth work role and practice. Youth workers are already in the right places to support with this; they are already building links, already building the right relationships and in the right working spaces with young people and therefore should be involved. The NYA believes that the involvement of youth workers in multi-agency teams around a young person can assist earlier intervention and improved outcomes.  

Youth workers can use the Practice Principles at an operational level to improve practice, as well as to reflect on what this practice might look like in allied roles, such as social care, police, health, youth offending services in order to promote collaboration and improved communication with other agencies. The NYA hopes that the Practice Principles will influence local policy and practice to recognise youth workers’ vital role in identifying young people at risk of exploitation and strengthen relationships between agencies.  

“Tackling Child Exploitation’s multi-agency Practice Principles for responding to child exploitation and extra-familial harm facilitates a whole system approach to supporting children, young people and families. The Practice Principles offer a ‘ways of working’ guide to anyone, including youth workers, who are involved in responding to child exploitation and harm outside the home. 

From their starting point of relationship-based approaches, youth workers can build links and trust between young people and other professionals whilst advocating on their behalf.  

“We hope the Practice Principles will enable other professionals involved in multi-agency working to collaborate and recognise youth work and its role in this wider safeguarding system. Through effective partnerships youth workers can help tackle exploitation whilst providing safe and effective support for young people.”  

-Xyna Prasad, NYA Safeguarding Hub Manager

The ‘Tackling Child Exploitation’ support programme was commissioned by the Department for Education, with support from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department of Health and Social Care. The Practice Principles and resources have been developed by a consortium led by Research in Practice in partnership with The Children’s Society and the University of Bedfordshire’s Safer Young Lives Research Centre. 

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