Wag1 Event – One Voice for All
The recent Wag1 One Voice for All conference in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, brought together the voices of victims and survivors of CSE, their families and professionals.
The recent Wag1 One Voice for All conference in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, brought together the voices of victims and survivors of CSE, their families and many professionals working in the agencies and services that were held accountable for their response to CSE following the Alexis Jay report which was published last year.
Case Adviser, Sarah Brown, from our Hub & Spoke project, who attended the event said she was moved by the experiences of the women and families who were courageous enough to tell their stories so eloquently and honestly, not just about their experiences of exploitation, but also of their first-hand experiences of the various services in Rotherham.
The candid and honest nature of the talks was unique to many child sexual exploitation focussed conferences we’ve been to. The young women who spoke out made some frank criticisms of those services that were there to support them. The most important takeaway from the day was the reminder to listen and understand what victims and families have to tell us, even if much of what they want to say involves anger and frustration at those services.
By speaking out, sometimes years after their exploitation, these young women and their families continue to educate professionals about the signs of CSE and remind us that any failure to protect children can never be allowed to happen.
It was also crucial that this was balanced out, and that we heard from the services involved. The Alexis Jay report left nowhere for services to hide, so following the victims and families in the conference agenda, it was both sensible and appropriate to hear the passionate and positive belief and commitment in the changes that have since been implemented by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s Children’s Services, to improve their response to CSE.
The importance of listening and learning from victims, survivors and their families was reinforced in all the talks throughout the day; and ended with the positive messages from Emma Jackson and South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, that the police are now working closely with these families to better understand how to support others experiencing similar issues in the future. We think this young person and family focussed participation approach is a huge positive step forward for Rotherham.
Though child protection news has moved on in so far as there have been other reports since Alexis Jay’s, shining the light on other areas, it’s important to remember that the individuals involved in the Rotherham cases are still affected by their experiences even as the services and response to child sexual exploitation in the town continue to improve, demonstrating the importance of striving to get it right in the first place.