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Joining the dots? Tackling child exploitation during Covid-19

Anna Racher (Research in Practice for Adults, Totnes, UK)
Isabelle Brodie (Institute of Applied Social Research, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 13 October 2020

Issue publication date: 15 December 2020




This paper aims to report on findings from action research undertaken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by the Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme (TCESP), a Department for Education funded programme that provides support to local areas in improving their strategic approach to child exploitation and extra-familial harm.


The research included a scoping review of the literature, and focus groups with programme staff, strategic leaders and professionals from different services across England. To provide a strategic lens, findings were then considered in relation to TCE’s “Joining the dots” framework, which encourages examination of the relationships between different forms of child exploitation.


The action research highlighted the emerging and tentative nature of the knowledge base relating to child exploitation and extra-familial harm in the context of Covid-19. Findings revealed that there had been innovation in the use of digital methods and direct working, integration of practical support with other forms of service delivery and in partnership working, and also considerable variation in approach across different local areas.

Practical implications

Strategic leaders need to use the evidence emerging from lockdown as a basis for further interrogation of emerging data alongside the views of young people, families and communities and their wider workforce. This includes new information about changing patterns of exploitation. Digital delivery and innovation need to be supported by clear strategic guidance, based on review of the evidence regarding increased digital communication and its impact. New partnerships developed between services, data sharing and innovative ways of working that have taken place during lockdown need to be monitored and evaluated for quality and impact.


The action research findings offer a snapshot of practice regarding child exploitation and extra-familial harm at a mid-point in the Covid-19 lockdown in England and Wales.



Funding for the TCE programme is provided by the Department for Education.


Racher, A. and Brodie, I. (2020), "Joining the dots? Tackling child exploitation during Covid-19", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 275-285.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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