By Tom Duffin, Head of Policy, Research and Communications at Pace.
When I read a novel, my mind creates an image of each character. I have a rich picture and a level of detail which goes beyond the author’s script. On the occasions when I have seen the film of the book, it has felt a bit different, even when the screenplay has been true to the original script. I remember reading Jaws and then watching the film – totally different experience!
The same concept can apply to CSE. The messages we pick up about CSE often suggest that the problem is about predominantly ‘vulnerable’ or ‘troubled’ children and families. It should be no surprise then that people are left with an image of CSE not being about ‘people like us’. I remember in a former statutory agency role, a professional colleague telling me about parents he had met when working to safeguard children affected by CSE. He appeared shocked and repeatedly told me, “they were really nice people”. Those experiences gave my colleague the opportunity to be clear about the true nature of the problem and then develop relational solutions.
In the 7 or so years that I have been working at Pace to encourage professionals to work alongside parents and carers, the most influential resource I have found is the parent’s voice. When you see or hear a Mum or Dad talk about what happened to them and what worked and what didn’t, any pre-existing stereotypes just disappear.
At the first Parents Speak Out event held in Leeds last year, the results of research with affected parents was launched and we heard from parents about their experience. The feedback was really positive and those attending felt much more informed.
The next Parents Speak Out event in 2018 will take place in London. Half of our contacts to the National Parent Support team come from Greater London and the adjoining areas. At the last event we discussed the problem. At this one, we want to talk about solutions. Along with getting more clarity on the problem, professionals have told us that they also want to know about what the evidence says and what good looks and feels like.
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