(This needs editing a lot-warning)Third party exploitation. Ask a social worker who works with over 11s who aren’t in care what abbreviations they use for third party exploitation/grooming and parent adolescent conflict. 3rd and PAC. These are the two abbreviations which will be present together, in about half the young women they currently work with, if not more. Why is this interesting to you? Well, the fact is, it’s never been interesting to anyone. Which has long been a problem.
Until headlines like these, or these or these appear. A salacious tabloid touch, to bring attention to a horrific crime, that is actually very mundane and common, and very deliberately out of the eyeline of anyone who could do anything about it.
When the problem is sensationalised in true tabloid style, for a brief moment everyone cares. Tabloids report it like porn, for some sicko to masturbate over, as they use their pages to parade a crime that the culture they created prevents policy from fighting. Phrases like ‘gang rape’ are used, as are scare stories about ‘them’ corrupting ‘our’ children, and we pretend this is a shocking sign of the decline of our times and a race issue. Until they have established how to attach their particular agenda to these girls or demanded social services sourced heads to make themselves feel better, and then nobody does. Again.
Occasionally the nationalists who have long hijacked this issue to stir up local tensions pop up. As happened in Keighley, when Ann Cryer MP, decided to flush the work being done down the toilet and christen this a race issue. BNP arseholes followed suit and the mums of girls being exploited by 25-6 year old white guys thought it was less of a problem…after all he isn’t Asian and has a nice car. Every racist father with a daughter who has a boyfriend of different ethnicity, on the phone to demand we deal with this ‘abuse’.
Arseholes who shouldn’t have been able to hide then got to hide behind a ‘race issue. Generally the demands that someone protect these children die off in the time it takes for a disinterested news cycle to establish there is no political collateral to be gained by tackling it.
It’s a race issue, it’s a parenting issue. It’s not a gender issue at all, that would hurt the feelings of the white male political media that keeps these girls vulnerable. It isn’t as simple as these girls are bottom of the pecking order, with the services they need broken up, sold off and undermined. It isn’t anything to do with the fact that our politically affiliated press would NEVER address this for fear of upsetting the politicians who feed them…..never… It isn’t an example of neo-liberal social policy reaching it’s limit? No, course not.
There is no political gain in this story, it is agreed these girls should be at the bottom of the pecking order in the Childrens Services departments being kicked to death by political consensus. These are the departments most invisible to political debate, these are the girls at the bottom of the pecking order for resources in those departments. While politicos shout about Surestart and payment by results, these girls are a political risk that everyone works not to acknowledge. Agreed for so long it doesn’t merit discussion any more. Structurally invisible to debate. Our sex industry has always seen a human resources boost at times like these. This is just the younger, seedier end of the market. Sorry to sound abrupt, but I find it difficult to rise up in shock about a problem as old as time.
These are the children blind party privileged politicos wash from your view while claiming they are ‘the left’. Our Labour left this year, decided that these girls were austerity collateral damage and worked very hard to make sure the services that deal with this took the brunt of austerity.
So let’s get clinical. These girls are likely to be over 11. Unless they are already in care, they are not getting into care. Even if it is needed. Not until a long path to trip the girl up has been laid, which might at some point, result in residence in a unit, or if she is spectacularly lucky a foster placement. After everything else has failed and I mean everything. That you are running a network of 6-10 workers, so that that girl gets nowhere near the protection and support she needs to address this, irrelevant if it is holding together and is not a placement costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. An order that would mean the Local Authority would then be committed to longer term expenditure…
What most of these girls actually need is much cheaper, but we work in a tabloid slut shaming culture which requires they be treated as nothing and put out of sightso we don’t have to address why societies have always fed on children in this way,when allowed. Most local authorities do not have the resources to accommodate these young people. They were told to sell them off for efficiency in the 90’s. They don’t have the ability to co-ordinate a web of services so fractured either, if we are being honest. But now Local Authorities are heading out of sight and mind, I am sure that problem will go away. When you get beyond the initial shock of the outrage, the only way anyone wants to deal with this is to send the victim of abuse away and take away her liberty. Punish the victim to make society feel better.
There is a booming market in specialist children’s homes, specialist units. Since privatisation asked local authorities to seek greater efficiency from private companies, the cost has become so astronomical. Teams likely to be dealing with these girls, often run entirely to the remit of prevention of use of these placements. Hundreds and thousands of pounds for a placement not massively unusual, thousands a month almost cost effective… Hundreds of thousands for a placement likely to be sabotaged by the person in the middle of it which cannot be justified, not when the tabloids are demanding ‘savings’ and sacrifice of invisible ‘burdens’.
The term to describe these placements is ‘out of authority. The meaning is privately provided and prohibitively expensive. Prohibitively expensive in the service politicians don’t want to acknowledge exists, for the kids at the bottom of the pecking order for resources because the public demand it that way.
As children over 11, they are not cute tabloid friendly babies, they are often girls who *shockhorror* have already demonstrated behaviour resulting from the factors that make them vulnerable. They may not dress in Boden. They might even smoke, as children wishing to appear ‘adult’ have always done. so it takes little convince most people this is not abuse and they are choosing to be abused. If their adolescence and emerging sexuality results in fashion choices or behaviour which reflect the culture sold to them, all the less likely she is to be seen as victim. This is not a new phenomenon, this is the oldest.
The team that will be dealing with these girls(and boys) is the team for teenagers, Young People and Families. Over 11s. In my team we had a wall of fame. The kids we had worked with, where press had deliberately torn up that work to pursue a right wing tabloid agenda.
The cost of the education provision that is a direct result of the flogging off of service provision, portrayed as ‘rewarding’ a family. Demonised kids, publicity for ASBOS and other agendas. This is the age group where companies like E2E will be offering the alternative education provision for those who can’t cope at school. This is the kids the Daily Mail want buried and in a system where our government do as the daily mail says, this is never going to be the team that gets the attention or the resources. Whip up a bit of racial division on the rape of teenage girls? Yeah, at least then it serves a political purpose. Everyone is happy.
Then you have to add in the effect of marketisation. So by the time you are dealing with girls who are being exploitedin this way, it isn’t one worker. Its 12 workers, from different agencies. A social worker at the centre with a statutory responsibility, trying to pull them together. Resources for these girls are difficult to get, and what they really need is one relationship. You have to go to a multi-agency panel meeting to ask for resources, with an assessment which can run into 20000 words, and reams of utterly baffling and pointless paperwork to fit with the computer systems bought that dont work. Where 14-15 managers of different fractured organisations have to give approval to your assessment and work to ensure as few resources as possible are committed. The child’s culpability in their own abuse, the need for them to change their behaviour, or the cost and existing thresholds of risk set so high, you walk away with next to nothing. You have to make nothing work. Or you have to sell to those managers that the consequences for them, of not meeting this need will be great. Tabloid headlines flickering at the forefront of any departments mind, since ages ago…
The cost of the resources they need, is not matched by a likelihood that those resources will work, and there is a huge chance that the young person at the centre of it will do everything they can to sabotage a badly managed plan which is actually just an ordeal they have to go through, before anything substantial will be offered. So no local authority wants to justify it. Payment by results is really not going to do these girls that much good. God help them under Serco and Virgin and there are no results to pay for here. The people who approve the decision do not even meet with the social worker or their manager, never mind the girl in question, as it is sent for a game of top of the pile ping pong. Education, health and Childrens Services, wrangling about how much they each may contribute as they commodify the girls life into percentages covered by their remit.
Many people will come outright and say these girls are not being abused, and when you get the phone call to say the girl you work with was found beaten, or released after days of being raped, the likelihood is noone outside the ward she is on will care. Of the ones that do, a good proportion will blame her for the effect of the incident on them. No-one cares when you have a 14 year old, three weeks away from working the nastiest of the local red light areas, and no-one cares once the girl is not appealing and tabloid friendly. Girl’s whose sexuality is evident, are not liked.
And here is the Catch-22, if they go into the Looked After System, they are going into a system where they are likely to be more vulnerable to abuse of this kind. Where they are likely to end up targetted not by abusive boyfriends, but by the predators who have always been able to reliably treat our looked after system as easy pickings and girls there for reasons which are similarly rooted, even if the manifestation is different. Girls end up criminalised for breaching plans or living in the culture required as a respond to crimes against them. In a disruptive cycle of short term secure accomodation, because there is no risk here that requires a girl losing her liberty, and once she has lost it and the risk cannot be argued, the order cannot(and should not) be maintained. Locking a girl away is not the same as dealing with this problem. There will be many people who see anything but the girl being locked away as dereliction of duty on behalf of social services.
The #ididnotreport hashtag, which few women will be surprised by the contents of, is the society these girls learn about relationships. Often lessons built on a foundation of family relationships which didn’t model anything that could contradict this. If the onset of adolescence has shown damage done by earlier abuse, that behaviour is used to condemn them. If they are not in care, then there is no legal order there is little reason to prioritise children over 11.
This was the first place thresholds of risk increased when austerity began, while party affiliated sites did EVERYTHING they could to make sure these services were not discussed. Listen to two minutes of discussion and you realise beneath it all, everyone wants the girl out of sight and out of mind. Responding to this is not about protecting her at all. The outrage about the case in Rochdale, where the same politicos who worked all year to ensure these girls did not exist, now shouting for the scalps of social workers or the need to keep these victims locked up, or settling old scores about ‘communities’ ho need to address this issue so our political system and media get to feel self righteous….
You want to give a fuck about this issue, ask why these kids were at the bottom of the pile and why your party or your favoured publication did everything they could to keep them invisible to media debate, because the party your paper operates for, said that that was the first place cuts should hit. For the good of everyone else. No? Ok then, just stick to reading rape porn in tabloids and demanding someone do something…
(To be edited when I have time).