Tracey who was looked after was referred to a Sova project by Children’s Social Care. Tracey was angry, bewildered, confused and vulnerable, and although her behaviour was challenging she appeared on a regular basis at the project.

Tracey started to go missing from care in her teens, not attending school and showing more unpredictable behaviour. She started to substance misuse, self- harm and was involved in offending behaviour. The various agencies working with her became more concerned as her behaviour spiralled out of control. There were suspicions that she was being sexually exploited, and as a result agencies worked closely together sharing information in an attempt to reduce the risks to Tracey.

Tracey did not attend the Sova drop-in during this period giving the explanation she thought she was a bad influence but did remain in contact with the project staff meeting them in the office or in the street. She had a child that was removed from her care because of the risks she presented. Her substance misuse, self –harm and anorexia increased.

During this period Tracey was part of a complex police investigation into child sexual exploitation, which lasted over 3 years. Her substance misuse led to her receiving a service from our parent company, Cgl services staff.

The police were aware that Tracey and other young people had involvement with Sova and sought access to their files to assist in the investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service decided to prosecute those involved in the exploitation of Tracey and other young people and it was recognised that the young people who were victims were at increased risk from the perpetrators at this point. To try to mitigate risks all agencies involved with the victims attended a weekly briefing meeting and named police officers were allocated to the victims and to support agencies.

Tracey’s mental health deteriorated in this period and her substance misuse increased, she went from one short-term abusive relationship to another and her flat was used by a variety of people putting her tenancy at risk. During this period Tracey made two suicide attempts whilst under the influence of drugs. The second attempt led to her requiring emergency surgery and her life hung in the balance, she was then admitted to a psychiatric unit. The Sova Manager, Cgl keyworker, Social Care support worker and named police officers regularly visited her in the unit, something Tracey appreciated particularly as she remained there over Christmas and the New Year.

Eventually the case was heard in the Crown Court and Tracey, along with some of the other victims, were supported by the Sova Lead Safeguarding Officer as they gave evidence. The accused were found guilty of multiple sexual offences and given lengthy prison sentences.

The Sova Chief Operating Officer made the commitment to the other agencies involved in the investigation that Sova would continue to support the young woman after other services withdrew. Tracey continued to meet the staff in their office and on the street as before. At first she struggled to get her life back on track, she still substance misused, suffered from depression she found herself a victim of domestic abuse and pregnant by her abuser. The Criminal Compensation Board questioned why they should pay compensation to the victims of the court case when they had criminal records –which they all had obtained whilst being exploited.

Gradually Tracey has turned her life around, she was proud of herself the day she had enough money to insist on taking the Sova Lead Safeguarding Officer for a coffee as a “thank you for being there”. Tracey is now in a long-term relationship with someone who cares for her and her child from the abusive relationship.

For Tracey it has been a difficult journey to adulthood, without knowing her story it would be easy to think the troubled child became a difficult teenager who became a burden on society, but to know her story is to see how a child’s life can fall apart because of the actions of others but others working together and believing a person has the right to a better future and can achieve it can make a difference.