At Abianda we passionately believe in the six principles of the Care Act 2014 - empowerment, prevention, proportionality, partnership, protection and accountability - and strive to apply them daily to all aspects of our support of girls and young women regardless of age.
We also know that there are some unique challenges that impact young women who are transitioning to adulthood, or who are over 18, and who are impacted by exploitation and county lines. In the absence of a comprehensive county lines national strategy or practice framework, professionals are working within existing policy and practice guidance. We know this doesn't always meet the needs of women and girls, especially those who no longer qualify for support from Children's Social Care due to their age, but don't meet the very different threshold requirements of Adult Social Care.
As young women approach adulthood, we know from our experience that they are far more likely to be seen as active, willing and consenting participants in county lines and less likely to be seen through the lens of vulnerability and exploitation. This is especially true for young Black women, who are often perceived as adults consenting to their own abuse long before they are adults and able to keep themselves safe. This is as a result of adultification bias which you can read about by Jahnine Davis here. We also know that the only thing that fundamentally changes on your 18th birthday is your age, your legal rights and the statutory support available to you. Exploitation doesn't follow the same rules and doesn't just stop. In fact, for many young women the risk increases as the support falls away. Risks can also increase as young women become more likely to be living independently and so at risk of having their homes exploited through 'cuckooing'. They also become eligible for more financial products increasing the risk of financial exploitation including involvement in money laundering.
At Abianda, our support doesn't stop at 18. We work to safeguard young adults all day every day, often in partnership with other agencies and always centred around the young woman's individual needs and hopes for her future. We offer solution-focused, strengths-based interventions and advocacy, which recognise young women as experts in their own lives and with autonomy to make their own choices, whilst acknowledging the constraints on choices linked to the complex environments in which young women live and the dynamics of grooming and exploitation. We work shoulder-to-shoulder with young women to build their critical consciousness, which focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of the world. This includes taking action against the oppressive elements in their life that are illuminated by that understanding. This empowers young women to make decisions that can reshape their lives, often realised with tailored, specialist support brokered by Abianda practitioners including the involvement of Adult Social Care where needed, but drawing on community resources and those within young women's existing networks.
We support young women affected by county lines exploitation directly via one-to-one and group work sessions. You can read more about our MOPAC-funded Rescue and Response project here.
This #SafeguardingAdultsWeek we urge all those who encounter young women to look beyond their age and see both their vulnerability and huge potential. Let's all work together to create a safer world for women and girls affected by county lines.