Longitudinal Study on the Impact of CSE Training on one Local Authority Children's Service

The Client’s Need

JustWhistle had been commissioned to deliver a range of training on various issues relating to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse for a local authority which included their children’s services teams, licensing, CSE team, elected members and corporate teams. With the client making such a large investment in training for a substantial amount of people, this gave us the opportunity to develop a longitudinal study which would examine the impact of the training courses on the day and then explore how much of that new knowledge was retained after six months. This research design enabled the local authority to really consider what the return on investment was and what long term impact training was having on the practice, knowledge and attitudes of their workforce.

The importance of understanding long-term impact of CSE training

There are many assumptions that underpin why an organisation, authority or group would deliver CSE training to its workforce, some of which need much further exploration. Those assumptions include the argument that awareness is as good as knowledge; that learning for one day around a complex topic will equip professionals to change their practice and improve their responses to children. Another assumption might be that once professionals have this knowledge, they can influence practice and disseminate the learning to others. Another assumption might be that professionals who complete an evaluation form at the end of a day of training saying they learned a lot, will retain that new knowledge and be able to change their practice. A final assumption could be that training can challenge individuals’ long-held attitudes, prejudices or preconceived thoughts or understanding of complex issues.

These remain assumptions in many cases because there are very few longitudinal follow up studies or knowledge tests with professionals after CSE training has taken place. Because of this, those who commission and run training can find it difficult to accurately measure what long term impact their training has had. We believe that follow-up studies to measure long term impact are critical in the future effective commissioning of CSE/CSA training.

As an example of this problem, Bovarnick and Scott (2017) recently conducted a review of the evidence pertaining to sex education and CSE awareness sessions with children. It is widely accepted that if children attend workshops or assemblies about sex, relationships and CSE they then have the information and knowledge they need to influence their relationships and keep themselves safe. However, a review of the literature did not confirm this. Not only was the data very difficult to interpret because the majority of organisations delivering awareness work in this area do not always conduct any follow-up and therefore have no data on what impact they had – but the findings from the meta-analysis clearly showed that the sessions have little to zero impact on behaviours, outcomes or abuse of children. Instead, the sessions were shown to result in a temporary increase in knowledge but longitudinal follow up was so rare, it was hard to know whether the sessions had any impact going forward.

Ultimately, lack of good evaluation and research means that training and awareness raising could be having little impact, or even a detrimental impact and we wouldn’t know. This is why the type of evaluation we have conducted is so important to anyone commissioning training.

Our Report – Long term Impact of CSE Training on a local authority children’s service

We trained 280 professionals across the Authority with a number of different roles and responsibilities who completed the initial evaluations after each course. Six months later, 38 professionals then took part in the anonymous online survey.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • On completion on the day of the training, professionals reported that they would change their practice by reducing victim blaming, being more alert to CSE, challenging poor practice and working in a more child-centred approach.
  • Six months after the training ended, professionals confirmed a reduction in victim blaming of children in their practice, an increased knowledge of CSE and a conscious movement towards child-centred practice which valued self-efficacy of the child
  • Professionals also reported a confusion surrounding the age of consent, a tendency to blame parents and carers for the exploitation of children and a feeling of being powerless to change or implement better practice in their CSE work

Please download the full report below and get in touch to let us know your thoughts or if you would like to discuss training with us.

Click to download the full report here:
Impact of CSE Training on Children’s Services

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