Protect and Respect Evidence, impact and evaluation

We developed Protect and Respect to support children and young people who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited. We’re evaluating the service to see what helps protect young people from child sexual exploitation and its consequences.

How child sexual exploitation affects children

1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused (Radford et al, 2011). But a high number of these cases go unreported, undetected, unprosecuted and untreated – particularly child sexual exploitation

Limited understanding of what sexual exploitation is, or how to tackle it, means children continue to be at risk (Berelowitz et al, 2015).

Child sexual exploitation can have long-term effects both physically and psychologically. It can also impact on young people's social integration and economic well-being and may adversely affect their life chances.

Read more about child sexual exploitation.

How Protect and Respect is helping protect children

Sexual exploitation can have a lasting and devastating impact on young people's lives (PACE, 2013; Safe and Sound, 2013; Berelowitz, 2012).

Research has identified a range of factors that can help protect young people, and support them if they have been exploited (Barnardo's, 2012). These include:

  • raising awareness of sexual exploitation among young people and practitioners
  • specialist services to provide the necessary support to young people.

Protect and Respect builds on over 15 years' experience of the NSPCC offering similar services.

Our social workers use skills such as attunement, being able to understand how a young person is feeling, and build a therapeutic relationship with the young person based on trust and respect.

Research shows that children and young people want to be partners in their protection and recovery plan. Without consultation they can end up feeling powerless and hopeless (Berelowitz et al, 2013). So we make sure that young people's views are sought, explored and taken into consideration at every stage of Protect and Respect.

We work with other professionals such as the police, social workers, doctors and lawyers. This is to make sure a young person has all the help they need. We know that talking to lots of people can be stressful for a young person and their family (Berelowitz et al, 2013) so we explain who needs to know what and why. We work hard to support referrals and limit the number of times a young person has to tell their story.

How we're evaluating this service

Alongside the University of Bedfordshire we developed a bespoke measure to assess the risk of child sexual exploitation over time. We are currently evaluating the service in 10 locations across the UK.

There are 3 components to the evaluation of Protect and Respect:

  • Outcome measures
    We're tracking well-being, post-traumatic symptomology and vulnerability of children at 8 times points before, during and after intervention. We don't currently have a control group so we can't be certain that improvements to children's outcome scores are because of the intervention.
  • Interviews
    We interview young people and practitioners to help us understand any variations in the help and support provided by practitioners. We're also identifying the circumstances in which certain types of support improve the safety, well-being and life chances of the children who receive a service.
  • Referral and assessment data
    We collect data on all children who receive a service and will use this to identify pathways into sexual exploitation and any patterns in the types of vulnerability commonly experienced.

Engaging young people who have been sexually exploited is extraordinarily difficult. There was concern that introducing lengthy measures at the beginning of an intervention could jeopardise the process. We worked closely with managers and practitioners over the period of a year to choose measures which would not take too long to complete and could be integrated into the practice model with little impact. We also decided to include data from existing practice data collection tools in the evaluation.

Some practitioners also expressed concerns about conducting follow-up measures with young people after they have left the service because it may:

  • require young people to reopen issues that they would rather not address.
  • uncover new or recurring problems
  • create a tension between closing a case and providing ongoing support
  • be dispiriting to learn that conditions have deteriorated.

We are looking at ways to share learning from practitioners who have successfully completed follow-up measures to help increase the overall number that have been completed.

Developing a way to monitor 3 outcome measures at 8 time points across 4 strands of work and at 10 locations was a challenge. We created a network of interrelated spreadsheets to allow us to get up to the minute information on who had done what. The spreadsheets are maintained by administrators at each service centre and provide reminders for when practitioners need to collect follow-up data.

There was a delay in getting the software needed for collating the measure data installed across all the service centres. As a consequence there was a back-log of data which needed to be entered into the system and we were unable to do any preliminary analysis.

This evaluation was carried out internally by the NSPCC evaluation department. It uses the following tools:

  • interviews
  • Outcome Rating Scale
  • Child Report of Post-Traumatic Symptoms
  • Protect & Respect Assessment Form.

Find out more about the tools used to measure outcomes

Contact Mike Williams for more information.

What we're doing next

We’re testing Protect and Respect in 12 areas of the UK. We'll have early findings in late 2016 and will have a full evaluation in December 2017.

Assessments and interventions for children and young people who’ve been sexually exploited are still developing across the UK.

Our evaluation of Protect and Respect will make an important contribution to increasing our understanding of the risk and protective factors linked to child sexual exploitation.

We will have evidence about how to develop an effective response to protect young people from child sexual exploitation and its consequences.

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

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  1. Berelowitz, S. et al. (2015) “If it’s not better, it’s not the end”: inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups: one year on (PDF). London: Office of the Children's Commissioner.

  2. Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE) (2013) The impact of child sexual exploitation. [Leeds]: Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE).

  3. Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC. 

  4. Safe and Sound Derby (2013) The impact of child sexual exploitation. Derby: Safe and Sound.