A COMMUNITY hub helping survivors of child sexual exploitation has been handed a £350,000 lotto grant to help widen its network of support.
The cash given to Swinton Lock Activity Centre by the Big Lottery Fund will allow it to develop its provision for other groups.
Staff will be able to develop support for children and adults with learning disabilities and do more with the centre’s canalboats.
Swinton Lock chief executive Jayne Senior said: “For us as a service, it’s fabulous news. It’s brilliant because we still need to continue expanding what we do here.
“It’s not just about CSE, it will cover other areas of what we do at Swinton Lock. As well as working with victims, survivors and family members affected by CSE and domestic abuse, we can continue to develop the work on our boats and provide activities for children and adults with learning disabilities and other groups.
“The third part is more youth provision to help them re-engage after issues like bullying.
“Swinton Lock has always tended to be about teenagers, but we’ve been able to trial a lot of new groups, such as with smaller children.
“The grant will also help with things like our teatime groups for young carers and with expanding our environmental and wildlife programme.”
The Swinton centre’s two boats are used by various groups for team-building and confidence-boosting trips along the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal and River Don. A needs analysis is being carried out on potentially adding residential trips.
Mrs Senior said: “There’s nothing like bonding on a boat in the middle of the water and it can be like a floating classroom for our therapy groups too.”
She added: “We’ve also changed our remit so it will not just be young people from Rotherham but also Doncaster.
“The money will mean people from a range of disadvantaged groups will benefit from improved mental health and wellbeing, and young people will be supported to make positive life changes.”
Service user Eliza (24) - not her real name - has seen a dramatic drop in the number of panic seizures she suffers after being referred to Swinton Lock last month through its link-up with Rotherham Abuse Counselling Service.
She said: “Swinton Lock gives you the belief and courage that there’s a way through anything. It’s very calming. I get very anxious about new places, usually they scare me to death, but it’s been so friendly here.
“We all support each other. Everybody is here for a different reason and you can’t put people in boxes. But being here together is uplifting.”
One 14-year-old girl, who has been supported by Swinton Lock for a year following serious bullying issues, said: “The grant is awesome news because this place means a lot to me.
“People here help me through whatever I’m going through. I have a lot of respect for them. It gives me the opportunity to keep moving forward.”
Swinton Lock is also currently helping Emma Stephens, a doctoral student at Coventry University, with her study on CSE victims’ experiences of working with professionals.
Social worker Emma said: “Speaking to people at Swinton Lock is incredibly useful. No matter what you read and hear from professionals, there’s nothing that improves your understanding more than talking to the people who have actually been through this.”