Hard to reach young people and agency neglect safeguarding teenagers
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Hard to reach young people and ‘agency neglect’: Safeguarding teenagers. Patrick Ayre Department of Applied Social Studies University of Bedfordshire. The complexity of the challenge. Young people 14-18 may be Victims, Perpetrators Parents Any combination of the above

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Hard to reach young people and agency neglect safeguarding teenagers l.jpg

Hard to reach young people and ‘agency neglect’: Safeguarding teenagers

Patrick Ayre

Department of Applied Social Studies

University of Bedfordshire


The complexity of the challenge l.jpg
The complexity of the challenge Safeguarding teenagers

Young people 14-18 may be

  • Victims,

  • Perpetrators

  • Parents

  • Any combination of the above

    but have the same right to be safeguarded as any other child.


The background l.jpg
The background Safeguarding teenagers

  • National summary of Serious Case Reviews: “The reviews showed that state care did not always support these young people fully and that they experienced ‘agency neglect’” Brandon and others (2008).

  • Two recent Norfolk Serious Case Reviews


The young people l.jpg
The young people Safeguarding teenagers

Adolescence marks start of serious problems for many children:

  • Onset of mental health issues

  • Family conflict

  • Drug use, offending

  • Sexual activity

  • Running away


The young people brandon and others l.jpg
The young people (Brandon and others) Safeguarding teenagers

  • History of rejection, loss and, usually, severe maltreatment

  • Long term intensive involvement from multiple agencies

  • Parents: history of abuse and current mental health and substance issues

  • Difficult to contain in school

  • Typically self-harming and misusing substances, often self-neglect


The young people brandon and others6 l.jpg
The young people (Brandon and others) Safeguarding teenagers

  • Numerous placement breakdowns

  • Running away, going missing

  • Risk of dangerous sexual activity including exploitation

  • Sometimes placed in specialist settings, only to be withdrawn because of running away


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The young people (My experience) Safeguarding teenagers

  • Long involvement, but not always intense

  • Sometimes few placements, but all wrecked by the young person

  • Common factor that local services just did not know what to do with them.

  • ‘By the time of the incident, for many of the young people, little or help was being offered because agencies appeared to have run out of helping strategies’ (Brandon and others, 2008).


The response l.jpg
The response Safeguarding teenagers

  • Reluctance to identify mental illness and suicidal intent (CAMHS)

  • Failure to respond in a sustained way to extreme distress manifested in risky behaviour (sex, drugs, suicide attempts)

  • Arguing between agencies about responsibility and thresholds

  • Reasons for running not addressed adequately


The response9 l.jpg
The response Safeguarding teenagers

  • Running away leads to discharge

  • [More generally, does rejection of services lead to total abandonment?]

  • Age used as a reason for not imposing services

  • No proper assessment of competence; allowed/forced to choose;

  • [Dealing with incidents but failing to recognise patterns]


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The obstacles Safeguarding teenagers

  • Hard to get a purchase on the system

  • Wrong children, wrong adults (Ayre, 2000)

  • Lack of off-the-shelf resources

  • The limited resources are poorly coordinated and integrated

  • Government targets not child centred or child driven

  • Different agency agendas and mutual misunderstanding; falling down the gap


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The solutions? Safeguarding teenagers

  • That’s what we are hear to explore!

  • Biehal (2005) recommends adolescent support teams in the community [but is that enough?]

  • The complexity of the challenge requires flexible collaborative, individualised responses built around the young person


References l.jpg
References Safeguarding teenagers

Ayre P. and Barrett D. (2000) Young people and prostitution: An end to the beginning?, Children and Society 14, 48-59

Biehal, N. (2005) Working with Adolescents: Supporting Families, Preventing Breakdown, London: BAAF.

Brandon, M, Belderson, P, Warren, C, Howe, D, Gardner, G, Dodsworth J and Black J (2008) Analysing child deaths and serious injury through abuse and neglect: what can we learn? London: Department for Children, Schools and Families