London is often seen as a city full of opportunities, but for many young Londoners this perception doesn’t align with their reality.

Growing up in challenging and sometimes hostile environments, many young Londoners face various pressures and obstacles. These pressures gather like water behind a dam. Over time, the weight of these challenges steadily builds against the dam’s walls, placing strain on young Londoners’ wellbeing and resilience.

Cracks begin to form. A breaking point emerges. The dam can no longer withstand the mounting pressure. It gives way.

Amidst the aftermath, some young Londoners are swept into a current of violence and exploitation.  The futures that held promise are now submerged, engulfed by a society and systems that failed to nurture their potential. The absence of support and the weight of systemic inequities steer these young Londoners into difficult situations, where their struggles can go unnoticed.

Strengthening and developing our approach

There’s no denying that the issues and pressure that young Londoners and their families face aren’t going away. The cracks in the dam are progressively expanding. At Safer London we have witnessed a substantial rise in complex cases, accompanied by an unprecedented surge in safeguarding concerns.

Last year, we recorded a total of 756 safeguarding concerns, marking a substantial increase of 206 from the previous year. Of these 756 concerns 158 were “need to knows”. “Need to knows” are the most serious safeguarding concerns, and include such incidents as suicide attempts, carrying a weapon or sexual and criminal violence.

While we acknowledge we can’t fix the emerging cracks in the dam, we can make efforts to better support young Londoners and their families whose lives have been impacted by the issues. By doing so, we can provide young Londoners with a greater opportunity for a positive future.

To bring about a brighter future for those we work alongside, last year we strengthened our current ways of working, building on and adapting our existing approaches. We also worked on cultivating fresh and innovative approaches to our work, as well as embracing new service delivery and design, ensuring we were able to meet the evolving needs of the young Londoners and families we work alongside.

Last year…

  • We worked with our partners and funders to implement longer interventions. This means young Londoners who work with our team can now receive support for up to two years, with a consistent worker by their side.
  • We introduced new Expert Caseworkers roles. These workers possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to effectively assist young Londoners presenting with the highest-level needs.
  • We introduced new Specialist Caseworkers roles for Boys and Young Men affected by Sexual Exploitation, as well as Education, Employment, and Training.
  • We set out to establish innovative models of service delivery and interventions centred around peer groups and the places and spaces where young Londoners spend their time.
  • We worked to amplify youth voices and encourage active participation by nurturing and empowering a team of young champions known as the Safer London VIPs. Recognising that young Londoners are the experts in their own lives we created platforms for the VIPs played an integral role in helping us address significant challenges and confront them head-on.

Resilience and purpose

While Safer London may not have the power to repair the cracks in the dam itself, what we can do is scaffold a comprehensive programme of support around each young Londoner.

Our person-centred, trauma-informed approach allows us to build a unique programme of support around each young Londoner or parent/carer. This then acts as a buoy, enabling them to float or even rise above the turbulent waters they face. By providing tailored support, we can empower young Londoners to overcome their challenges with resilience and purpose and navigate toward a brighter future.

Hope for the future

At Safer London, we firmly believe there can be a positive future for every child and young person affected by violence and exploitation.

Although the risks of harm to young Londoners, and indeed all children and young people across the UK, can’t be eliminated, there is hope for the future. Work can be done to close those cracks and reinforce the dam. Until that time, we will continue our work with young Londoners and families. We will continue to invest in the Safer London team and work closely with our partners and funders to ensure that young Londoners are getting the support they need.

A theme we consistently observe throughout our work is resilience. The young Londoners we work alongside display incredible resilience every day. The strength and determination to forge their paths toward a positive outcome are unparalleled.

This resilience is truly what allows young Londoners to rise above.

Read our impact and accountability report Rise Above to find out what we did last year to help improve the lives of over 1000 young Londoners and families.


Illustrations designed and produced by Neck of the Woods films