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18 March 2019, 17:08 | Updated: 18 March 2019, 17:12
During this year's Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Week, the Essex Safeguarding Children Board are encouraging parents to improve their understanding of what constitutes child exploitation (CE) through the 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign.
Pupils across Essex state that parents are their best source of information and advice when it comes to CSE so the 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign wants to support parents by providing them with information not only on sexual exploitation, but also wider forms of child exploitation, such as criminal exploitation through county lines and gangs. The campaign also acknowledges that traumatic circumstances experienced through exploitation can also be felt by the parent and wider family not just the child themselves.
This 2019 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign builds on the successful 'I Didn't Know' campaign that has ran across Southend, Essex and Thurrock over the last three years, and aims to provide important messages to parents in relation to exploitation of children in Essex and to signpost parents and carers to a range of support for themselves and for their children.
Phil Picton, Independent Chair, Essex Safeguarding Children Board said: "We've all seen the headlines about young people being drawn into forced criminality and for some, becoming victims of sexual abuse and violence. Young people are groomed, manipulated and threatened into these situations by people pretending to be their friends or from people offering to help them when they are vulnerable. We all need to keep an eye out for this happening to our young family members, friends and neighbours; the 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign is part of our joint efforts to let everyone know what to look out for, how to report concerns, and for those families who are experiencing this horrific form of abuse, signposting to support and advice. I invite you all to take a few moments to look at the Essex Safeguarding Children Board, 'Parents, Did You Know?' page, it could help your family or someone you know in your community."
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex said: "Protecting children from harm is one of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and while most children will not fall victim to sexual or criminal exploitation, trafficking, gangs or youth violence, it is vital that all parents and carers know how to make them aware of the dangers and also learn how to recognise tell-tale signs of abuse. That's why I fully support the 'Parents, Did You Know?' campaign because knowledge is key to empowering parents to best protect their children. The Essex Safeguarding Children Board brings together a wealth of resources and support from a number of partnership organisations and I would encourage everyone who cares for children to familiarise themselves with the content."
The campaign is also highlighting the Essex Police parent hotline which was launched in July 2018 specifically so parents can report any concerns about child exploitation. The hotline number is 01245 452058 and is staffed Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm, with voicemail available outside of these hours.