Young people across County Durham and Darlington are to receive additional support to help them stay safe, in a bid to end child sexual exploitation.
A new website has been launched by a multi-agency ERASE team, as source for help and information for children, parents and the wider community.
The team involved in 'ERASE', which stands for Educate and Raise Awareness of Sexual Exploitation, have already seen a number of local successes in the fight against abuse. The team focus on child sexual exploitation, but also on missing children, as being reported missing from home can be an indicator that a child is at increased risk of sexual exploitation.
Made up of a number of professionals including police officers and staff, a social worker, an intelligence officer and Barnardo’s youth workers, the team have close working relationships between schools and the other agencies involved with the local safeguarding children board, including the NHS.
The team have been funded by Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, Clinical Commissioning Groups in Durham and both councils in Durham and Darlington.
Jane Geraghty, Chair of Durham Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Child Sexual Exploitation is child abuse. It can have a damaging and long lasting impact on children, as well as their families. Victims of sexual exploitation are often reluctant to report their abuse or do not recognise that they are being abused. This makes it important for all of us to be ‘eyes and ears’ in our communities.”
Helen Murphy, Safeguarding Manager from Durham Constabulary, said: “The team build on the good work already underway to tackle child sexual exploitation. Prevention is always better than prosecution and this team are focusing on preventing abuse and tackling it early in the hope we can make a real difference to the people in Durham. The team use intelligence led activities to proactively identify young people at risk and work with them to reduce the risk. The team also work with other units to develop intelligence to identify and disrupt offenders.
“When young people go missing from home, they can be at risk of a range of dangers, including sexual exploitation as well as other crimes. That’s why we focus on every missing report. We work with the young person and their families to reduce the times they go missing. A young person Rachel (not her real name) has given her support to the ERASE team. At one stage she frequently went missing from home, sometimes overnight and the police and her family were concerned about the danger she faced when she was missing. I’m pleased to say Rachel’s life has been transformed, she no longer goes missing and is working hard at college and in a new job.”
Rachel said: “At one stage I hated it when the police came looking for me and I didn’t realise the danger I was in. Now I know the police are real people and they and my social worker genuinely cared for me. Working with them means I have the same life as other teenagers my age, which is all I wanted; a normal life. I want any young person to know they can call the police or speak to another adult like a teacher, they can really help you.”
Rachel’s mum said: “I’m glad there is a website now so that people can find out more and that there are so many agencies there to help you keep your kids safe. Please don’t think that police will give up on them because they don’t.”
Richard Burrows, Independent Chair of Darlington LSCB, said: “We welcome the launch of the ERASE website and the work of the team. In order for children and young people to be safe and protected we rely on professionals working closely together and all members of the community being in a position to talk to the relevant professionals when they are concerned about the safety of a child. We urge everyone, in particular parents, to go on the website to find out more about child sexual exploitation. You may be concerned that a child may be at risk, you may be worried about suspicious behaviour of those who live in your community or you may even be worried about a location. No matter how small, we want to know. By sharing your concerns you could help us to keep a child safe.”
Mr Hogg said: “This new team really demonstrates our commitment to safeguarding young people across County Durham and Darlington. The website is a useful resource for anyone in the area, whether they are a young person, professional or a worried parent, who is concerned about the safety of our young people.”
The new website goes live from 12th January and can be found at www.eraseabuse.org.
Posted on Tuesday 12th January 2016