On Friday, 24 January, the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit in partnership with Epic, Doncaster and South Yorkshire Police held the Safeguarding Looked After Children – A Partnership Approach event at the Rotherham United New York Stadium.

Over 160 delegates attended the event from across South Yorkshire to listen to  keynote speakers including, Andi Brierley, who spoke about his lived experience of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) growing up in care homes and becoming involved in drugs and a life of organised crime from the age of 12-years.

Andi later went on to turn his life around and now works in Leeds, supporting young people who are embroiled in criminality.

Shaun Polley from the Missing Peoples charity spoke to the audience about what the charity do to help missing persons.  Shaun explained that young people who go missing have issues that need help and support.

Temporary Superintendent Lee Berry, Joint Head of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit and the Strategic Lead for Missing People said: “Today’s event was an opportunity to bring together partner agencies, practitioners from each of the local authorities, care home workers and representatives from the police to discuss the important issues surrounding young people and why they go missing.

“A great deal of police time is spent on trying to find vulnerable young people, who go missing for a variety of reasons.  As professionals, we need to start to focus on the ‘why’ and try and resolve the issues for young people, especially those in children’s home to ensure that they are safe and their choices do not lead to their vulnerabilities being exploited”

Police Constable Emma Bloodworth spoke about county lines and how to spot the signs.  Emma showed videos to the audience introducing them to a young boys story, were he was groomed in to organised crime and pressurised in to selling drugs.  The video explained how a child’s vulnerabilities are easily exploited by those involved in organised crime.

Also speaking was Ed Nixon from the Independent Children’s Homes Association.  Ed explained how young people should not be criminalised for their actions whilst in care.

Joanne Sykes from the West and South Yorkshire Resettlement Consortium also presented.  Whilst explaining  findings from  research carried out on behalf of  the consortium, Joanne explained that one of the findings was that look after children feel that carers are too transactional in their engagement, they are paid to support, rather than making children feel they want to help them.

Detective Inspector James Humphreys visited from Thames Valley Police to talk about the work that they are doing within their Emergency Duty Team in Custody. Their joint working over the last 12 months has improved outcomes from children detained in Custody.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner presented the opening address.  He is also chair of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit Executive Board. He said: “In South Yorkshire we are tackling violence in two ways. First, the police are cracking down on the drug-dealing gangs who are responsible for much much of the gun and knife crime, and who draw young people into their criminal world.

“Second we are going to get upstream of this and understand why young people are drawn to violence in the first place.

“This is a longer term project, but we are determined to rid South Yorkshire of violence and its causes.”

Temporary Superintendent Lee Berry closed the event explaining that the learning  from the event will formulate the partnership approach over the next 12 months to ensure looked after children have the best opportunities to thrive.