Wiltshire residents are being asked to show their support to unite against the exploitation of children and young people.
Today (18 March) is National Child Exploitation Awareness Day and Wiltshire Council, alongside its partners, is encouraging everyone to consider how we can all think, stop, and speak out against exploitation and abuse.
The multi-agency Emerald Team delivers direct interventions with children and their families to reduce the risks of Child Sexual Exploitation and other types of exploitation such as criminal exploitation and county lines.
The team, which includes Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police, offer support to others who may be working with children or young people at risk of exploitation, as well as have missing co-ordinators who monitor all young people who go missing – a common feature often seen in young people who are being exploited.
It is essential if people have concerns about young people being at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation they raise them, so we can all protect them from harm. The team work directly with a high number of these young people and also offer advice and guidance for other professionals already involved with young people. Through the work of the Emerald team in the last year 5we have seen risks reduce for 53 young people.
Cllr Pauline Church, Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills said: “We all have a part to play in keeping our young people safe. This is a hugely important new way of working which is bringing in our schools, our shops and all our communities to look out for the signs and speak out so we keep our children and young people safe and prevent exploitation.”
The work of the Emerald team is building on ‘contextual safeguarding’ on how people address concerns for young people when they are vulnerable to harm coming from outside of their home and family.
Wiltshire Council is one of five local authorities selected to work with the University of Bedfordshire as part of a ‘scale up’ project which encourages closer work with schools, retail partners and communities to identify issues which may lead to young people being exploited and raise concerns where needed. Developed by Dr Carlene Firmin, the project aims to support Wiltshire Council and partners with a system’s change process to embed contextual safeguarding into core practice and processes over the next three years. It looks at how interventions can support peer groups, places and environments, to make them safer for all young people. It also asks people to consider how to work together to safeguard young people, reducing the risks they face.
Dr Firmin said: “‘We are nearly one year into a three year project to embed Contextual Safeguarding in Wiltshire. We have already learnt so much from the practitioners and managers who are leading the development of the work alongside us about what the approach could mean for young people, families and communities in the area. Wiltshire’s openness to try something different, and to be brave in their efforts to safeguard young people have been noticeable from the outset. We are committed to continue to support practitioners and managers in Wiltshire as they increase safety in local areas, schools, and peer groups, as well as families, where young people have been vulnerable to exploitation.
Detective Inspector Mark Kent, Wiltshire Police lead on CSE said: “Child abuse takes many forms – from sexual to criminal – and it’s not always obvious. That’s why multi-agency working is so crucial; we can draw on the expertise of individual partners to build strong interventions for children and their families.
“This week supplements the good on-going work already being carried out by the Emerald team.
“We are determined to highlight and tackle the signs of child abuse. The more people are aware of it, the easier it is for more people to spot the signs which will hopefully lead to more children being protected.” “
Mark Gurrey, Chair of Wiltshire’s new Safeguarding Vulnerable People Partnership said: “Sexual exploitation continues to damage and harm too many children. The impacts of the abuse can be felt for years after the event. Whilst I am confident that agencies in Wiltshire are working well together to protect children and young people in the County from this abuse, we can never be complacent nor can we assume that it’s a threat that no longer exists. The awareness day is an important reminder, if one is needed, to all to be alert to some of the known signs of CSE and to be mindful that some children in the County still face horrendous abuse. It is imperative that everyone does all they can to prevent it and to protect children from sexual exploitation both now and in the future “
People who have concerns about young people being exploited can contact MASH, the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub. Office hours the number is 0300 456 0108 or out of hours 0300 456 0100 or email email@example.com.