Rotherham Council warned against changing ReachOut child sexual exploitation support

BENEFICIARIES of preventative CSE support run by Barnardo’s warned against changing the set-up as Rotherham Council confirmed it is looking to bring the service in-house.

Since 2015, ReachOut has helped thousands of young people affected by or vulnerable to sexual exploitation through individual and group sessions, drop-ins and school visits.

It is one of four services which has been provided through a partnership set up with the children’s charity in the wake of the CSE scandal.

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But funding issues are believed to be behind the reason RMBC is now looking to run the service itself.

A source said: “There are many young people that are vulnerable, from all walks of life. For some, ReachOut is their only lifeline.

“There are children on waiting lists that will be let down, as well as those currently being worked with, if this work doesn’t continue. It would be a nightmare.”

A “very concerned” mum-of-five said ending ReachOut would be “the biggest mistake that the council can make for our young, vulnerable children.”

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She added: “This charity just want to help the young people of today keep safe from all the harm that they can endure growing up.

“They work alongside that vulnerable child and give them the knowledge to be aware of dangers.”

And one youth supported by ReachOut added: “The young people’s lives there changed for the good. The people there have put them on the straight and narrow and helped out when others didn’t.”

Nadine Good, Barnardo’s regional director of children’s services, said: “Following lengthy discussions with the council, a decision has been made to close the ReachOut service.

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“This important work, supporting children affected by sexual exploitation, will be transferred to the council.

“We have received robust assurances from the council that children who are receiving support will continue to do so, and any children at future risk of exploitation will have access to specialist support.

“Over the past six years, Barnardo’s has invested over £2 million in children's services in Rotherham, including ReachOut. Barnardo’s has also increased its charitable contributions to ReachOut year on year since 2020.

“However, in the current environment, this is not sustainable, especially with costs continuing to rise.”

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RMBC children’s director Nicola Curley said: “Following reductions in government funding for ReachOut, and in the voluntary contributions that Barnardo’s have been able to make to some Rotherham contracts, the council is in discussions about bringing this provision in-house.

“Our intention is to protect the services offered to our children and young people, and the relevant staff currently employed by Barnardo’s would be transferred into council employment.”

Both Barnardo’s and the council said they would continue to lobby for more investment into services tackling CSE.