Drive to prevent exploitation of children in Northumberland

Picture c/o PixabayPicture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay
A £15,000 grant enabled a project to support almost 120 young people in Northumberland who were identified as being vulnerable to exploitation.

The 119 children were identified using 15 indicators, with 52, or 44%, coming from the Blyth or Cramlington locality, 21 from Bedlington and Morpeth, 18 in and around Ashington, 14 from the north of the county and nine in the west.

Six sessions of group work were undertaken with the young people, who then presented their learning in the final session through raps, art or spoken presentations.

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This activity, which was funded by the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, was just one of the pieces of work highlighted in the Missing, Slavery, Exploitation and Trafficking (MSET) report that was presented to the county council’s family and children’s services committee on Thursday, July 16.

The report provided an overview of the arrangements in this area of child protection, which have been in place in the county since March last year, as well as a draft action plan drawn up following a series of recommendations coming out of two inspections in the last 18 months.

MSET is responsible for coordinating and ensuring the effectiveness of multi-agency arrangements for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people who go missing or are at risk of child sexual or criminal exploitation and/or trafficking.

Covering both children and young people in transition to adulthood, the meetings are co-chaired by Northumbria Police and senior managers from the council’s children’s social care team.

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Pre-meetings are held to see what support can be put in place to avoid cases progressing to the full meetings, with 65 young people from Northumberland, aged from 11 to 19, discussed at pre-meetings between June 2019 and last month.

Of those, 45 have not had a repeat referral, which the report says is evidence that the risk management plans put in place ‘are robust and effective’.

There have been fears of an increased risk of online exploitation during the Covid-19 lockdown, because young people will have been spending more time online and on social media – national figures suggest a 200% increase in screen time.

The report says: ‘Our referral and assessment data is representative of this, showing a notable increase in children’s social care intervention as a result of online exploitation.’

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