Charity to support teenage girls at risk of sexual exploitation

Magdalene Group chief executive Suzi Heybourne, right, and Enroute project team leader Lisca Jones.P

Magdalene Group chief executive Suzi Heybourne, right, and Enroute project team leader Lisca Jones.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Teenage girls at risk of child sexual exploitation will be given the chance to learn life and relationship skills thanks to a new charity project.

The EnRoute Supported Accommodation project, which will be led by Norwich-based Magdalene Group, is due to start in April.

It will allow seven girls aged 16-18, who are looked-after children and at risk of grooming or coercion, to live in their own house and learn practical skills as well as receive therapeutic support.

At first the project will put seven girls in three houses in a Norfolk community.

But Magdalene Group chief executive officer, Suzi Heybourne, said the charity hoped to expand the project across Norfolk and work with housing association providers.

She said: 'This has been a long-held aspiration of the Magdalene Group. We have long since recorded that the help and support these vulnerable women need is at the point when they leave care.

'We recognise that the young girls growing up in care have vulnerabilities. We want to support them and provide them with a warm and nurturing environment.

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'Our job is to help them grow in their independence and confidence and transition into adulthood.

'We know all young people are vulnerable to child sexual exploitation.'

Mrs Heybourne said the project was different to other supported accommodation because the Magdalene Group understood issues relating sexual exploitation and based its therapeutic support on that.

This would be provided by befrienders from the Magdalene Group, set up in 1992 to help vulnerable women and young people affected by sexual exploitation.

The therapeutic work will teach girls about healthy relationships.

Support will come from a 'house mother', who will offer 24/7 support.

Community Interest Company Your Own Place will provide practical life skills.

These range from budgeting and household tasks to tenancy rights and dealing with debt.

The girls will also receive health and wellbeing support with access to medical and mental health services.

The Magdalene Group will offer support to former EnRoute residents.

'Our job is to help them negotiate that crucial time on their lives,' Mrs Heybourne added.

Call 01603 610256 for details.

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