Young people help tackle child sexual exploitation

Young people in Plymouth have been working alongside police and other agencies to design a new child sexual exploitation awareness campaign. The results of a two-year collaboration will now be rolled out across the Devon and Cornwall Area.

The National Citizens Service (NCS) worked with the Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, police, and city partners including Argyle Community Trust, Barnardos and NSPCC to develop the campaign for young people.

Teenagers from Plymouth provided feedback and ideas for key messages they thought would resonate with their peers including:

  • Anyone can be a victim
  • Young people can be exploited by someone their own age
  • If a young person is missing from home or school, they become more vulnerable

The campaign encourages young people to #SaySomething if they are worried about their own or other people’s relationships.

CSE involves young people and children being ‘groomed’ and sexually exploited.  It can take many forms, such as through an apparently ‘consensual’ relationship with an older person or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, cigarettes or alcohol.

Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal.

For help young people can call or text: 116000 – a free and anonymous service

or visit www.faceuptoit.org – a website written for and by young people.

Todd Hanrahan, NCS Programme Manager, at Argyle Community Trust said:

“I’m extremely proud of the work our young people have contributed. It’s very rewarding to see youth voice being used and how influential young people can really be. CSE has been a notoriously difficult subject to talk about and tackle.

It is important to provide young people with further education about child sexual exploitation, as well as giving them the opportunity to support and guide us in identifying platforms and messages for us to use.”

More than 1200 young people had a voice in the final campaign. The new posters will be used around bus stops, fast food outlets, and cafes.

The campaign will also be shared via social media.

Simon Hardwick, Partnership Inspector (Plymouth), Devon & Cornwall Police said:

“We began by talking to young people in Plymouth about child sexual exploitation, a community safety issue that causes great concern for all professionals. We quickly realised that we had to be prepared to really listen as the young people took the lead in exploring this area of vulnerability with other young people to help prevent harm. The result is this brilliant campaign designed by the young people’s Empower group, assisted by colleagues in the NSPCC & Barnardo’s and in which more than 1200 teenagers have had a voice”.

Andy Bickley, Independent Chair of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board added:

“Tackling child sexual exploitation is a shared priority for organisations working with children and young people in Plymouth.  We are absolutely committed to making sure there is a greater awareness of child exploitation, including CSE, with our young people so that they may recognise various types of exploitation and have the confidence and support to report.  We are extremely grateful to the young people involved to ensure that we can tailor our response and communication to have maximum impact.”

Posters designed in collaboration with the young people will be used at bus stops and other places where young people congregate, such as fast food outlets and cafes. Social media messages will also be shared. The campaign provides information about CSE and grooming, together with signposting to help and support.

For help young people can call or text: 116000 – a free and anonymous service

or visit www.faceuptoit.org – a website written for and by young people.

Help and support are available via and www.dc.police.uk/1519  (for young people) and www.dc.police.uk/CSE (for adults and carers)

The campaign is a collaboration by the following partners:

National Citizen Service

Argyle Community Trust

Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board

Devon & Cornwall Police

Barnardo’s

NSPCC