Bedfordshire police officers support National Child Exploitation Awareness Day

Raising awareness of the issue and learning how to spot the signs

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 3:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 3:27 pm

Bedfordshire Police is working alongside local authority and health partners to support National Child Exploitation Awareness Day today (Wednesday).

The force is working to raise awareness of this issue and encourage people to learn how to spot the signs and to speak out if they suspect something.

Child exploitation can affect any child and young person, regardless of their background, culture, gender, age or ethnicity.

Police

It is a type of abuse in which children are sexually or criminally exploited for money, power or status.

The offenders, who often work as part of organised crime groups, are deliberate in their actions and use sophisticated tactics. Grooming can take place in many forms both online using social media, via mobile phones, or in person.

Signs that a child or young person is being exploited can include behavioural changes, alcohol and/or drug misuse, self-harm, being absent from school, going missing regularly, acting secretively, and receiving unexplained gifts or money.

Detective Superintendent Zara Brown, head of the Bedfordshire Police Public Protection Unit, said: “Tackling child exploitation is an absolute crucial priority for us and we’re committed to working alongside the local three authorities and our partners to bring those responsible to justice while providing support for victims.

“We were the first county to launch the Home Office Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit, which provides guidance to those working with children and young people around how to safeguard if they are already, or at risk, of being exploited, and we recently hosted a conference, which discussed the issue of online exploitation.

“The Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit was established last year, which brings together organisations including police, local government, health, community leaders and other key partners to prevent serious violence - especially among young people.

“Within the force, we have made some changes to the way we deal with child sexual exploitation and are now taking a more proactive approach in the way we tackle these offenders, when they become known to us.

“It is very important that everyone knows the signs to look out for, as this is happening in our county now.”

Cllr Mahmood Hussain, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People at Luton Council, said: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with other local organisations to protect children from sexual exploitation and support victims.

“Everyone has a role to play and this National Child Exploitation Awareness Day I would encourage you to learn and recognise the signs, as it can happen to any child regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, background, or age and ensure you know how to report any suspicions you may have. By speaking out you could be helping to protect more children and young people from suffering this terrible abuse.”

There are a number of organisations that you can report your concerns to who can also provide further advice; and by speaking out you could be helping to protect more children from suffering this abuse.

Cllr James Valentine, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Service and Education said: “Bedford Borough Council is in full support of National Child Exploitation Awareness Day. Everyone can play a part in helping to keep our children and young people safe; whether at home, at school, online or on our streets.

“If anyone has any concerns about the welfare of a child or young person, we would encourage you to report it to the police or other relevant organisations.”

Cllr Sue Clark, Executive Member for Families, Education and Children at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Exploitation is incredibly damaging, which is why we’re working collaboratively through Safer Central, the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) – which includes Bedfordshire Police, Central Bedfordshire Council, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Services, National Probation Services and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group – to help identify children who are at risk.

“We are focusing on tackling all areas of child exploitation through early identification and intervention with some of the most vulnerable residents in Central Bedfordshire. And because we want to encourage people to think, spot and speak out about abuse, we are creating stronger, safer and more resilient communities by working much closer with residents, so they can help tackle exploitation too.”

For more information visit: www.bedfordshireagainstcse.org.