Making sure the voices of vulnerable children heard and listened to has spurred a graduate into an influential new appointment where she hopes to change ‘the system’ from inside out.
Ellie Fairgrieve graduated from the University of Northampton’s Childhood and Youth degree in 2013. Since then she has been working for charities to better understand and help children who are being – or are at risk of being – exploited.
This includes children who are coerced or forced into county lines drug gangs, grooming or sexual exploitation or those who are immersed into violence or knife crime.
Ellie’s energies have seen her appointed as Head of Delivery for the Children’s Society where she is working with safeguarding partners such as the police, health service and local authorities to develop their strategic responses to child exploitation concerns.
Ellie explains: “Although I’m over the moon to have achieved this new role, it comes with a tinge of sadness about how much more needs to be done to help vulnerable children.
“The use and abuse of children by gangs and other criminal outlets is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon and although advocates for their rights have also been with us for some time, as a wider society we do tend to let them down.
“In some cases, children and young people who are being exploited are viewed by society as criminals and tend to be punished, when in reality they are victims and actually have no choice about their criminality. Their behaviours are directed or dictated by abusive perpetrators and is all but beyond their control. It’s horrific to hear what they have endured.
“I feel very strongly that this negative way of dealing with people who have suffered hardships unimaginable to most of us is something we need to tackle.”
Ellie’s new role sees her helping to influence agencies at a strategic level on their localised responses to child exploitation. She was previously a service manager for the past 3 years which enabled her to develop and design child exploitation services across a region.
“I’ve been working in this area for the past five years and when I first started I wanted to make a difference on an individual level, focusing on one child or a small number of children at a time.”
“All of that experience has converged with this new position where I have much wider scope and influence. I’m able to provide support to multiply the impact we have for these children, collating entirely new evidence and take this to the next level where the team and I hope it will inform national policy and legislation relating to child exploitation to radically change the thinking of public bodies and, in time, how the wider public see these children.”
Ellie feels that her time studying at the University gave her the perfect foundation for this challenging professional area: “I’m very much of the belief that you get out of work and life what you put into them and you take every experience you can.
“I wasn’t sure when I started University if I wanted to go into social work or education or something different and I wasn’t sure what ‘different’ was. The Childhood and Youth degree really helps here because it is so very broad.
“The modules and work placements covers both ends of the professional spectrum and everything in between, all designed to get you to try as many potential careers paths as possible. By giving you something different, you stand out from other job candidates.
“It’s that experience that has helped me have a positive impact on young people’s lives. When all is said and done, that’s what pushes me through the day.”
Find out more about the Childhood and Youth degree.