29 April

Groomed by Gangs: Helping Georgia Escape Exploitation

Georgia* came to Kooth to find someone who would listen to her ‘without calling the police’. She also mentioned she had additional learning needs.

Georgia told her Kooth counsellor that she had met a new group of friends, which made her happy. She was worried though, as her new friends were urging her to carry a knife, which she didn’t want to do.

Initial risk assessment

Kooth counsellors gained a picture of Georgia’s life, her presenting issues, risk level and protective factors, alongside her reasons for seeking support. Due to the disclosure of her additional needs and apparent vulnerability, she was identified as high risk (red risk status). This level of risk meant that the wider clinical team were made aware of her situation and began monitoring her progress.

A Kooth practitioner was put in place to offer Georgia structured support, explore ongoing risks and assess her ongoing safeguarding needs. The clinical team remained alert to Georgia’s needs and risks she was exposed to.

How did Kooth support Georgia?

Georgia built a positive relationship with her Kooth key worker and together they looked at her wishes for the future: to make new friends and to move out of home.

During her counselling, Georgia struggled to share a particular piece of information. With gentle guidance and reassurance, Georgia felt able to tell her counsellor about gang grooming, including isolation from home support, requests for secrecy and the provision of drugs and gifts. Georgia felt protected and cared for. She worried her counsellor would inform the police, which she had been expressly instructed against.

Georgia was reminded that we would not be able to inform the police as she had chosen to remain anonymous on Kooth. 

We spoke to Georgia about the nature of the friendship which was often offered by such groups and how important it was for her to stay safe. We valued her need for friendship and helped her review other friendships she had in her life so that we could introduce the different patterns one might experience in safe, or less safe, relationships.

An assessment was made that Georgia was a victim of gang grooming. To keep her safe, we offered extra online support, helped her engage with services in the community and supported her in regulating her emotional responses to mood triggers and events in her life.

We built up trust and understanding to help Georgia disentangle herself from the gang. We needed her to stay engaged and manage the fear and uncertainty she was clearly experiencing.

Safeguarding

When disclosing a high level of potential immediate risk in chat, Georgia had been encouraged to share her identity with us so we could liaise with appropriate services, which she initially declined to do.

In engaging with safety planning, Georgia identified various adults in her life which she had felt able to reach out to for support.

Due to the long established therapeutic relationship and the seriousness of the potential risk that Georgia was under, the Kooth counsellor began some targeted psychoeducation interventions around the grooming process. Gradually, Georgia felt able to share information we needed to involve specialised local services in her safeguarding.

We explained and discussed the importance of Georgia being fully aware of our intention to approach the police after she shared personal identifiable information. We explored this with her in depth before receiving her fully informed and explicit consent. We were then able to work with the local police to identify a specialised agency that could help Georgia towards safely disengaging from the gang and a referral was made following her giving us her consent within the chat session. 

What was the impact and outcomes achieved? 

  • We contacted local police, who were aware of Georgia (but not of her gang involvement), after multiple interventions in the past
  • Working with the police, we identified a specialised agency that could help Georgia towards disengaging from the gang. With support, she consented to be referred to a scheme helping young people under 25 involved in Countylines gangs
  • Georgia responded well to the support Kooth offered, even starting part-time work. She also had the support of her community care coordinator to look for sheltered housing
  • Despite longer term issues with relating to others in a consistent way, she told us that she had learned to trust Kooth. Georgia is now embarking on transferring this skill to working with a local face-to-face counselling service who she will work with to understand and move away from risk-taking behaviours

*Georgia is a pseudonym

This is a summary of detailed case notes; information has been excluded/changed to protect Georgia’s identity.