Tackling Child Exploitation In Lancashire
21 November 2018, 05:55 | Updated: 21 November 2018, 06:21
Professionals looked at a number of issues facing vulnerable children in Lancashire
Over 250 professionals who work with children and young people across Lancashire took part in the Police and Crime Commissioner's Tackling Child Exploitation Conference.
Speakers included Paul Stewart, former England International footballer, who was himself a victim of abuse as a young player and former police detective Dean Coady OBE who served 26 year in front line policing and now delivers safeguarding training in relation to CSE, county Lines, radicalisation and street gangs.
Professionals from schools, safeguarding boards, public health, the police and the NHS among others heard about tools available to support their work with young people in the county and have the opportunity to shape future initiatives to tackle emerging issues.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw, who funded the event, said: "Supporting vulnerable people and victims is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan and I believe that education is critical in tackling any form of child exploitation.
"We need to work together and support professionals in getting these messages across to the young people they work with. By sharing knowledge, tools and resources today we can get information into schools, health and other safeguarding settings to reach as many children and young people as possible.
"I am pleased to see so many professionals at this event wanting to make that difference and help prevent others from falling victim to these awful crimes."
Paul Stewart, who is now part of the Save association, which aims to effect positive change in safeguarding and victim engagement through football, added: "Since speaking out in November 2016, I have been speaking publicly at conferences sharing my story, education is paramount so as to understand the impact of abuse on individuals, listening to survivors gives a unique insight and will help develop best practice when working with victims.
"Conferences like this give us the opportunity to begin to understand the complexity and issues that arise from child sexual and criminal exploitation and will help us understand why victims don't disclose."
Assistant Chief Constable Jo Edwards from Lancashire Constabulary said: "I don't want to see any child or young person become a victim of grooming or exploitation. Protecting the public, especially children, from harm and abuse is an absolute priority for Lancashire Constabulary and with our partners we will continue to proactively target those who seek to groom or exploit youngsters. Events like this which allow all of those involved in tackling this type of criminality to share knowledge and experience are essential if we are to ensure everyone knows the signs to look out for and what action to take to protect local young children.
"However, it's also really important that we help raise awareness among young people to allow them to learn about the risks they face and ultimately help them to make the right choices. This event will do that too, by showcasing some of the methods and materials available to help educate our young people on this subject and ensure they know how to keep themselves and their friends safe from grooming and behavior which is potentially predatory."
Adrian Wright, who manages Nest Lancashire, the support service for young victims of crime in Lancashire set up by the Commissioner, added: ""Many young people feel pressured to take part in activities like sexting. They often tell us 'everyone is doing it' and that they 'thought it was normal'. Many young people don't know the laws around sexting and educating them is vital to keep them safe.
"Young people spend a lot of time online often interacting with a variety of people. It's a world that didn't exist when many of us were young. It's really important that we understand the digital world young people live in and that we equip them with the skills and knowledge of what to do if they encounter something which makes them uncomfortable.
"Developing an understanding of healthy relationships is key to helping young people build their self-esteem so that they are less likely to fall victim to predators. It's also vital for a young person to be able to access support to move on with their life after they have become a victim. Nest are here to provide that support."