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Call For New Police Crime Commissioner To Focus On Child Exploitation


5:35am 10th September 2012

There are calls for North Yorkshire's new Police Crime Commissioner to focus on child exploitation.

Barnardo's in Yorkshire want more resources to focus on combating the crime.

Statement from Barnardo's

For the first time North Yorkshire is soon to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner who will make sure the public has a say in how the region is policed.

Barnardo's hopes he or she will make tackling child sexual exploitation a priority for the force, because the police can and do play a key role in spotting and dealing with this ugly crime.

In every part of the country children are being groomed, abused and exploited for sex, as recent high profile cases have highlighted. Police and Crime Commissioners will be central in uncovering this hidden crime and prosecuting abusers to help make all of our children safer.

Barnardo's has been working to stamp out child sexual exploitation around the UK for 18 years and there is an ever-increasing demand for our services. We already work closely with the police on child sexual exploitation, but there is more to do.

We urge members of the public to send a message their police commissioner candidates in their area by going to www.barnardos.org.uk/cutthemfree and join us in the fight against this terrible crime.


1. What is child sexual exploitation?

The term 'child sexual exploitation' is used to cover a broad range of illegal activity from seemingly 'consensual' relationships or informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes through to very serious organised crime.

2. Who are the young people that get involved and how are they exploited?

Any child or young person, from any background, can be exploited. Boys and young men can be at risk as well as young women and girls. Children and young people from any ethnic background are at risk.

A high proportion of the children we work with have been 'groomed' by an abusing adult - often posing as a 'boyfriend figure'. Children are often befriended, lavished with gifts and attention and then gradually drawn into the control of the 'boyfriend' - essentially brainwashed so they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

3. How many children does it affect?

It is a hidden issue, so we can only go on estimates from national levels of service provision, including our own. Last year Barnardo's services worked with over 1,000 children and young people being supported by the 53 relevant services across the UK, but can only imagine the numbers of children and young people still experiencing this abuse unidentified and alone.

Of those 53 services, Barnardo's ran 22 - and is the leading provider in the UK.

4. What is the impact of sexual exploitation?

The effect of sexual exploitation on a child or young person can be long term and highly damaging. It can lead to difficulties in making and sustaining relationships with others, feelings of worthlessness and shame, loss of confidence and low self-esteem.

Young people can be subject to physical and sexual violence, and be put at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Their families can suffer threats, violence and significant psychological distress, disruption and even fragmentation.

5. What does Barnardo's research report show?

Cutting them free, published in January 2012, shows that we are working with more children and young people who have been sexually exploited than ever before, with figures from our specialist services up 8.4% on last year.
The report showed that:

"    The majority of grooming is in private with cases of 'street grooming' being rare
"    1 in 10 of the exploited children using our services were boys
"    nearly half (44%) of the children have gone missing from home
"    1 in 6 young people have been trafficked and moved from town to town and city to city, rising to 1 in 2 in some areas
"    1 in 3 services has seen a marked increase in peer-to-peer exploitation

6. What should parents, professionals & young people do if they have concerns?

Everyone should be aware of the dangers of child sexual exploitation and know the signs. We are suggesting that our materials are used to start to understand the issue and find out more. However if there are immediate concerns about a child, then our services can be contacted for specialist advice and support. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 999.

7. What needs to be done?

Child sexual exploitation is getting more common and more sophisticated, and the response to it by all agencies varies across the country.  So far, Barnardo's campaign has led directly to strong commitments to take action from central Government and over two thirds of local authorities.

The police have an absolutely critical role to play in preventing child sexual exploitation, and the elections for the new positions of Police Commissioners give us a great opportunity to influence their priorities.

8. What materials are available and how can you get hold of them?

Leaflets: we have produced a set of leaflets have been produced to advise parents, children and young people and professionals who work with children how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation and what to do about it. You can download advice leaflets, they are also available in some Barnardo's shops and services.

Campaign materials: You can download our detailed briefing for Police Commissioner candidates, to make sure you know what we're asking for.
Please get in touch if you'd like to request other materials that you can use to promote the campaign in your area.  

9. What is happening in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?

Across the UK we are asking individuals to use the leaflets to be aware of the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation.  In addition we are asking people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to take part in particular local campaigning activities. Find out how you can get more involved.

10. What are we asking for in England and Wales?

We are asking for Police Commissioner candidates to sign up to support the campaign, and commit to taking steps set out by Barnardo's to tackle sexual exploitation if they are elected.

We want candidates to commit to ensuring that through their police and crime plans they will ensure that in their local police force:
"    there is clear responsibility for the issue
"    there are officers with specialist knowledge
"    there is force-wide training on the issue
"    there are strong local multi-agency links
"    there are strong cross-border police links
"    there is a system to identify child sexual exploitation on local police database
"    there is a culture of support for young victims

11. What are we asking for in Scotland?

Police Commissioner elections are only taking place in England and Wales.  If you are in Scotland, please take a moment to sign up to support the campaign - and we'll let you know about the progress from the recent petition and any other news about the campaign in your area.

12. What are we calling for in Northern Ireland?

We are calling on our supporters to sign our petition to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and urge them to do all they can to stop the criminal exploitation of children and young people for sex.

13. Why is it important?

In the 18 years Barnardo's has worked on child sexual exploitation, we have seen great progress in policing, with police in some areas leading the way in tackling it.

However, we also know that such good practice is patchy and practice varies considerably from force to force.  There is still much to do so that police consistently identify and support victims, protect potential victims and prosecute abusers.

Police and Crime Commissioners will be central to ensuring that the local police force is fulfilling its duties to tackle  this abuse through the new responsibilities of the role that include increasing the effectiveness of policing, reducing crime, and improving community safety and victim support.

14: What has the campaign achieved so far? Who else has been involved?

As a result of the Cut them free campaign:
"    Tim Loughton MP, Children's Minister in the Department of Education, was given responsibility for tackling child sexual exploitation
"    The Government published a National Action Plan explaining the steps they will take to fight Child Sexual Exploitation
"    107 local authorities have signed up to support the campaign and implement Barnardo's recommendations
"    We have secured a place on the Policing Board NI Youth Advisory Panel, which we are using to make sure that action is taken on Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland

We have submitted a petition to the Scottish Government, signed by 3045 people, asking them to carry out research on the nature of sexual exploitation in Scotland and to develop policies to tackle it.  The petition has now been considered by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government is being asked to respond to our demands.
None of this would have been possible without the help of more than 13,000 people who have campaigned with us.

15. Why is Barnardo's running a fundraising appeal on child sexual exploitation?

Whilst we can help over 1,100 children every year, we want to help more.  We can't do this without people's donations to help fund this essential work.

Donate today, and support our work to protect children from child sexual exploitation.

16. Why is Barnardo's speaking up for children and young people involved in such early sexual behaviour?

Barnardo's believes that a child cannot consent to their own abuse. Many of these children are groomed by sophisticated criminals, and there needs to be earlier identification of the risks and intervention to prevent this abuse.

17. What do our services actually do?

Barnardo's runs specialist sexual exploitation projects that offer a safe, confidential environment where young people can go for help, advice and support. Our project workers actively seek out young people, offering them the long-term support they need if they want to change their way of life.

The projects also work with schools and others to educate vulnerable young people to protect themselves from exploitation, and with the police to bring about the prosecution of perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

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