A message from our CEO
It’s been an extraordinary year. However, what I think you will see throughout this report is how well the team at Safer London has weathered these quite remarkable times.
My colleagues have dealt with the most incredible set of circumstances with courage, wit and often applied simple hard work to get something done.
Sadly, however many children, young people and families in London have continued to live lives affected by financial inequality and social injustice. The pandemic has shone a light on that.
We need to act with urgency, to begin to dismantle the systems that enable that inequality and injustice to take hold.
I remain certain that whilst the focus is on young Londoners rather than the context they are expected to operate in, we are blaming them rather than acknowledging the toxic nature of the situation created for them.
We have a long way to go but the children and young people we work with inspire us to keep trying and we hope that you will join us.
Sherry Peck CEO
Supporting young Londoners during the pandemic
The young Londoners and families we work with already faced multiple disadvantages before the Covid-19 pandemic, and there is no doubt that it will be young Londoners like those we work with, who will feel the long term impacts the most.
The lockdowns and social distancing restrictions only amplified the existing issues further. Unemployment was at an all-time high, schools were shut and for some young Londoners, they were trapped with their abusers.
As the country moved into lockdown, we knew that our important work needed to continue - it had to continue.
So, we adapted. We moved quickly, moving almost seamlessly into a new way of working overnight. By taking advantage of digital tools that were already at our disposal and accessible to the young Londoners we worked with.
Through WhatsApp, email, facetime, calls and texts, we were able to continue our important work with young Londoners and their families.
This ranged from supporting young Londoners and parents to set up and use Zoom, to posting wellbeing packages to boost self-esteem and encourage engagement.
When the first lockdown happened, it had the potential to leave people feeling very isolated. I wanted to avoid this as much as possible with all the young Londoners I worked with. So, I set out to find ways of engaging and different approaches, depending on individual needs.
There was one young woman who I’d been working with for a while. I was supporting her with healthy relationships, education and building her self-esteem.
Before lockdown, we would complete worksheets and activities which were arranged before the session based on what we had talked about the week before. Due to the circumstances, how we worked on these activities needed to be reassessed, not only due to no longer having face to face contact but also lack of privacy in her home.
When lockdown happened, she expressed that she was bored. So I suggested she try painting. I knew she had a passion for art, as it was something we had talked about previously.
She’d mentioned she’d wanted to buy paints before the lockdown but didn’t have the means to. I knew it would be a great way for her to express herself. So, after some encouragement and with her agreement I sent her some art supplies.
She was very grateful for the delivery and offered to send me pictures of her work. I was eager to see it and I was blown away by her creativity. So much so I asked her to do a piece for Safer London’s office.
During this time, it was essential to continue communication with the young Londoners I worked with. It was an uncertain time, full of doubt, loneliness and isolation. I needed to be there for them, so they felt less lonely. So they knew they had someone.
As professionals in this sector, we must be creative and adapt our approach so it’s accessible to the individuals we work alongside. Whether it’s a global pandemic or not.
Safer London Young People’s Advocate
Supporting parents and carers during the pandemic
I found the first few weeks of lockdown really difficult and overwhelming. Being a single mum, working from home full time and managing my daughter. But I realised that because of that, I had an understanding of what a lot of the families I was working with were going through. That shared sense of being overwhelmed and being on your own.
Safer London Specialist Family Worker
One of the themes that kept coming up for the families we worked with was the sense of loss of not being able to go out, not being able to see their loved ones. Therefore, they needed a lot of emotional support. They needed a space to just talk about how they were feeling.
One of the main worries for parents centred around their children still going out and not understanding or being aware of the risks. To support this, we focused our support around communicating effectively with their children.
We continued our work remotely with families, over the phone and WhatsApp primarily. The support was greatly appreciated. Some parents expressed relief, as they thought that the support would stop entirely when the country went into lockdown.
Our team put together a mail out to the parents. ‘A little Something’ mailout was about speaking hopefully to their situation. It included positive stories, motivational quotes and inspiring articles, all aimed at uplifting their spirits during this difficult and troubling time.
Resources around wellbeing and activities they could do with their children were also included. Parents were encouraged to get involved and take ownership by sharing their ideas – so parents could support each other.
This pandemic, it was a bit difficult at first. It was hard not seeing your friends or going out. The confusion, because out of nowhere the whole year was ruined like that. But after a while, I started feeling more positive. But it’s been going alright. I’ve been finding things to do to occupy myself.
Young Londoner on the first national lockdown
Working towards becoming antiracist
As the Black Lives Matter movement swept across the globe, we made a commitment, not just to the young Londoners, families and communities we work with - but also to our rich and diverse team.
Like many individuals and organisations, the events that were playing out reminded us all at Safer London that we have a long way to go before we can comfortably say we are doing everything we can to address inequality.
We started our formal journey to becoming an antiracist organisation and to create a clear five-year Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Plan. Looking ahead, we want Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to be embedded into our work as much as Safeguarding is.
The Reflective Space helped me and other staff that attended, to discuss and process some of the heavy systemic oppressions that were playing out so violently across the media and that some may have experienced first-hand.
I got a sense that it gave people permission and/or space to voice some of the microaggressions and nuances in the professional spaces they coexisted in which reflected these systemic oppressions. How these trickled down to views, unspoken prejudices and one-dimensional interventions for the young Londoners we support.
The space allowed staff to share research and interventions, in a bid to improve anti-oppressive practice with young Londoners and their families. It allowed for us to reflect on changes within the organisation and have discussions about how young Londoners could be included in the process of change.
It allowed me to name and raise issues in a space that felt safe. A space where I didn’t have to provide a deep, sensitive and complicated history lesson before I could make a point. Or rather opt to silence myself, because having to do so may feel taxing and not trauma informed.
Overall, I enjoyed having a space to think in this way. To engage my brain to discuss not only our responses to what was playing out in the media, but how we were carrying these acts of violence and systemic oppression. How we had to disassociate from the trauma being experienced, as well as support children, young people and families that were also affected by the same issues.
There is a lot to be considered and I’m sure I’m missing out loads. It’s a difficult task to condense it into a few short lines, but I guess that’s a reflection of how multifaceted and beneficial the space was.
Safer London Family and Community Worker
We wanted to make sure our practice was anti-oppressive. To ensure our services recognise the unique experiences of each young Londoner we work with.
We started looking at and reviewing issues around systemic oppression, including racism, ableism, sexism, LGBTQ-phobia and how these intersect and impact the young Londoners we support.
We explored what we could do as an organisation to make sure that we are actively challenging oppressive practice or bias.
We committed to challenging decision making and assessments if there were elements of bias and ensured that everyone in the organisation had the tools and felt empowered to do this.
We built this into our one to one work, with our team exploring young Londoners’ experiences relating to identity and culture.
Our team utilised the unique aspects of young Londoners’ identities as strengths on which to build, rather than be seen as deficits or set backs.
When I first met this individual he wasn’t in a very good emotional space. He had been a victim of online grooming and was having some severe issues with his peers at school.
We started working together and in the first couple of weeks he came out as a trans male. So, there were a lot of big changes happening for this young person. We began meeting over the summer and we had some very difficult emotional conversations, mostly around his interactions with his peers and his heightened emotional state because of this.
By the time school started we began some preparation work, we talked about how he felt about going back to school and being in these social interactions. He told me he was ready to go back. I’m not sure what happened, but I noticed a change. His anxiety had started going down during our sessions. I would ask ‘how’s everything going?’ and he would say ‘everything’s going ok?’ and I was waiting for a but, but it never came!
He said he’d joined a local youth club for trans males. He was now getting that social interaction he needed outside of school and it was such a positive influence that helped him relax more in school with his peers. I felt like everything was coming together and he was happy.
Since the beginning of our work together he had been uncomfortable talking about the online grooming. We started talking about when he might feel comfortable discussing this. We talked about dates and how half term might be a good time. We’ve started working towards it slowly and now we’re at a point where we’re talking about online safety. It’s pretty amazing because a couple of months ago this would have been triggering for him. We’re at the point now where we can talk about it. It shows me he’s in a good space now and the future is looking hopeful.
We had the most amazing relationship. I feel like I’ve really made a journey with somebody over the last five months, to see that change, that transformation happen - is incredible.
Safer London Young People’s Advocate
One to one support
Despite the challenges of the past year, many of the young Londoners and families we worked with engaged very well virtually.
They were appreciative of the support in whatever form it came. Some found that virtual sessions were more useful, or were able to engage more easily this way.
For others, virtual support has been difficult to access. When our work was able to resume within the community, these children, young people and families were prioritised for face to face support.
As our sessions had to be delivered in non-traditional means, welfare checks increased to ensure that the young Londoners we were supporting were still effectively safeguarded from harm.
We increased our advocacy and partnership working to enhance our work. This meant we were able to have more professionals at hand to tackle the wider issues.
The support I received from Safer London has been a huge help towards the healing of my recent trauma. It was so helpful to be able to speak to someone who was always willing to help, advise and just simply listen. Speaking with my Support Worker made me feel as though I didn’t need to go through my emotions on my own and that really helped with the process.
I’ve been working with a young woman who was the victim of sexual assault by her ex-partner who lived close to her. This makes her quite fearful of going outside. When I first met her, she’d got to a point where she wouldn't go outside unless somebody was with her.
One of the targets we set together was getting her to a place where she felt safe and confident enough to be able to go outside by herself. We'd been talking a lot about ‘how can we get you outside?’, ‘how can we make you feel a bit more confident?’.
So, I thought about self-defence karate classes. We talked about it. She said she wouldn't mind giving it a go and I found there was one about ten minutes from her house, which was perfect.
I arranged for a course of ten sessions, as well as a personal safety alarm. For her trial session, we went together. I wanted to go to the first session with her because she gets a lot of anxiety. We both took part in a one to one session with a trainer. Doing it together gave her a confidence boost. -It certainly helped that I’m unfit as she was much better than me!
Overall, it's really going to help build up her confidence, which will help her to get outside and in turn improve her mental health and wellbeing. She's even been talking about going to the sessions by herself, with her mum dropping her off and picking her up. This small step shows me it’s already boosted confidence quite a bit.
It’s really been a great method in helping us to reach our ultimate goal of helping her to feel safer and be safer
Safer London Family and Community Worker
In house specialisms
Working alongside young Londoners affected by violence and exploitation isn’t a cut and paste job. Each young Londoner has specific needs based on their unique circumstances.
For years Safer London has had in house specialists in areas including mental wellbeing, housing advocacy and many more. However, not all the young Londoners or staff had direct access to these specialist workers.
Over the past year we worked to create one cohesive service for young Londoners.
Young Londoners and families who are referred into our services can now access our specialist workers if needed.
- Emotional Wellbeing Advocates
- Housing Advocates
- Family and Community Workers
- Rescue & Response County Lines
- Harmful Sexual Behaviours Specialists
Our in-house experts can be accessed by as many young Londoners as possible.
It means our team is no longer working in silos. They are always working with and learning from one another, giving young Londoners the best chances possible.
We have to understand that recovery is not a linear path from a to b. It’s recognising the positives and the small wins, but being aware things can change at any moment and what it will look like if they do.
Safer London Emotional Wellbeing Advocate
Targeted Group work
Creating safe non-judgmental spaces, where young Londoners can learn from and support one another, is key to our group delivery work.
So, when London locked down back in March 2020, the impact it had on this area of our work was massive.
We had to re-evaluate our whole approach.
We explored and adapted to virtual delivery in response to how the pandemic was changing the landscape of youth engagement and delivery. Like many others, we moved to virtual group work.
It enabled us to diversify our delivery capabilities and audience reach, despite working from home.
Harnessing the positive power of peers
We know the influence that young Londoners’ peer networks and friendship groups can have. We also know that we need to do more to acknowledge this and work more effectively with these groups.
We commissioned the Contextual Safeguarding Team at the University of Bedfordshire to conduct research. To help us consider our existing strengths and see if we’re doing enough to really harness the power of peer relationships in our work
We found that...
- Peer interventions take various forms. Safeguarding work with peers can involve group work with connected young Londoners, but this is not always the case.
- Peer interventions are most appropriately used alongside other practice that understands and intervenes with the social conditions of abuse. This includes interventions with other extra-familial contexts.
- Peer relationships can be protective and for this reason, relevant to safeguarding.
- Practitioners can work with peer relationships without necessarily identifying all the connected young Londoners concerned.
In response to the findings...
- We developed our referral and assessment templates to help us consider peer contexts, with a focus on if we’re doing enough to really harness the power of peer relationships in our work. All is considered alongside other contexts, such as family, school and communities. To provide the fullest picture possible.
- We supported our team working with young Londoners on a one to one basis, to use peer mapping exercises in their interventions.
We started exploring how we can embed peer mapping into our group workshop content.
Some of our sessions now have exercises that explore the positive impact peers can have on one another, such as identifying which friends make a young Londoner feel safe to be around or who they can go to for support.
Safer London VIPs
Young Londoners whose lives are affected by the issues of violence, exploitation, social inequality, and racial injustice, are often dismissed.
They are often seen as part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
Last year we recruited the young leader Safer London VIPs.
A group of young Londoners who help to shape and form who we are as an organisation, as well as contribute to the wider conversation around violence and exploitation in London.
Given that all the work the VIPs have done last year has been delivered remotely, the dedication and commitment they’ve displayed has been nothing short of amazing.
Last year the VIPs...
It has been an opportunity for me to engage with other young people with similar pasts, and different people within the organisation. To really hear the opinions and points of views of people who could really understand you. People who want to give you a voice.
Safer London VIP
One to one housing advocacy
Often the place where a young Londoner lives can have a massive impact on their safety.
The housing landscape can be tricky to navigate, particularly in London. Our specialist workers are there to provide advice and guidance, so that young Londoners can access safe housing.
Sharing our knowledge and experience in this area is key. We want to help young Londoners we don’t work with or have access to.
So, this year we experimented with new ways of engaging partners.
We organised a knowledge exchange session with the homeless charity Shelter. The session was co-developed and delivered by teams across Safer London, from housing to Rescue and Response County Lines.
The session aimed to raise awareness and education around Contextual Safeguarding and bespoke advocacy for young people fleeing exploitation and violence.
Place based interventions.
Traditional safeguarding approaches and interventions in the UK tend to solely look at the young person who has been identified as at risk and their immediate family setting. They can often fail to look at the wider context of their lives.
This can be their peer networks, online activities and the places and space where they live and spend their time. When a young Londoner, or group of young Londoners, is at risk in a certain area – little is done to address that area. The focus tends to be on the individuals or groups at high risk.
Drawing on our evolving knowledge of Contextual Safeguarding approaches we built the mechanism for spaces and places to be referred into Safer London.
Our team worked together to look at the areas of risk, bringing together those from the community affected and professionals to discuss collaboratively what can be done to reduce that risk.
At the end of last year, we created Family and Community Worker roles.
These members of our team have specialist knowledge on how to work with communities, empowering them to keep the young Londoners who live there safe
It wasn’t just about moving young Londoners on. It was about how can we create a positive space that is inclusive for them, whilst acknowledging that they are local residents who have a lot to contribute to the area in which they live.
Safer London Prevention Advocate
The Pan-London Housing Reciprocal
Social housing in London will always remain a huge issue. Demand is high and stock is low. This can create a massive barrier for Londoners fleeing violence and abuse to find homes they can afford in a place that is safe.
This year also saw us take on an administrative role in supporting the Mayor of London’s efforts to support those affected by Domestic Abuse trapped because of the pandemic.
The emergency housing pathway, was a coalition project delivered in partnership with Solace Women’s Aid and Southall Black Sisters, Hestia, the Outside Project and
Victim Support. Working against the clock, our team helped to plan and mobilise the
project that was essential to the safety of Londoners trapped with their abusers.
This scheme is amazing for placing those most in need with suitable properties in the boroughs of their choice. It really does give clients that extra option to move away from their current location.
Pan-London Housing Reciprocal Partner
It was extremely easy to work with my support worker. She was very understanding non judgmental, helpful and overall supportive and understanding as a human being. I’ve learned how to be more comfortable with myself. I’m doing a lot of self care and well being activities including Yoga, breathing exercises, drawing and colouring just to name a few. Generally it’s helping me be productive and helping with my education too!
In the first year of our strategy, we’ve made great strides.
- We brought together learning and expertise from across Safer London to create one cohesive service for young Londoners. In-house subject experts in areas such as housing and emotional wellbeing will ensure all our team - and young Londoners - can access specialist support.
- We built a pathway and started our journey for young Londoners to influence delivery, development and decision making within Safer London. This work confirmed our commitment to ensure young Londoners are at the heart of everything we do.
- We brought in a new case recording system and developed a Theory of Change for our People work. Both will help us to effectively measure the difference we’re making.
- We implemented a new cloud-based system. This transition will allow us to more effectively support young Londoners and their families.
- We built the capacity to take place-based referrals through our new case recording system. By working with places and spaces where young Londoners spend their time, we can help keep them safe in their communities.
What we want to better
OUR USER PARTICIPATION WORK
Last year we said we needed to increase the voice and influence that young Londoners have within Safer London.
The Safer London VIPs had a lot of achievements, despite the challenges that the pandemic brought. However, we know we’re not quite there yet.
Next year our focus is to ensure that user participation is embedded throughout every area of work and that all our team is thinking about their work through the lens of amplifying young Londoners’ voices. This way we’re ensuring that their voices are influencing and shaping every aspect of the organisation.
What we want to do more of
PLACE BASED INTERVENTIONS
Last year we laid the foundations to start taking referrals for spaces and places where young Londoners’ experience harm. The pandemic forced us to pause this area of work.
However, the pandemic may have stopped the work, but it didn’t stop the risk. Young Londoners continue to face risk in the places and spaces where they spend their time. We want to work with them and their local communities, to ensure that the areas in which they live are safe for everyone who lives there.
We’re investing time and training into our talented team, including our new Family and Community Workers, as well as further developing our understanding of Contextual Safeguarding approaches, so that we can build on this work going forward.
- BBC Children in Need
- Buzzacott Stuart Defries Memorial Fund
- City Bridge Trust
- David & Ruth Lewis Family Charitable Trust
- Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
- Garfield Weston Foundation
- Charles S French Charitable Trust
- Help for Children UK
- Home Office
- John Laing Charitable Trust
- Leathersellers’ Company Charitable Fund
- London Borough of Croydon
- London Borough of Hackney
- The London Community Foundation
- Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)
- Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit
- Paul Hamlyn Foundation
- Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
- NHS South East London CCG
- Spitfire Audio
- The Goldsmiths’ Company Charity
- The Gregson Family Foundation
- The Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
- The Pilgrim Trust
- The Rayne Foundation
- Youth Endowment Fund
- The many schools and individuals who fundraised to support our work.
Safer London Trustees 20/21
- Janine McDowell, Chair
- Fiona Hazell, Vice Chair
- André Campbell
- Anthony Gunter
- Jeremy Hall, Hon. Treasurer
- Baroness Sally Hamwee
- Tim Jones
- Valerie Floy
Safer London is a registered charity in England and Wales No. 1109444; and a company limited by guarantee No. 5190766.