Representatives from Merton Safeguarding Children’s Board will come together next week at a public meeting to unite in their commitment to the borough’s most vulnerable children and their families. The occasion is open to residents and will mark national Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day (18 March).
Merton’s police officers, social workers, teachers, health professionals, voluntary sector workers, councillors and others who work closely with young people and families, will sign up to the national Helping Hands Pledge. They will stand united with residents in their fight against child sexual exploitation and their mission to make Merton a safe and secure place to grow up, where young people can get the support they need to take control of their lives.
Merton’s work with the most vulnerable young people in the borough and the nine principles all the agencies involved have committed to will also be published on the 18 March as part of the borough’s Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy. The principles ensure the young person is at the centre of the decisions and actions the board takes with the reassurance they are involved in the decision-making process and are empowered to take charge of their future.
Presentations will be given by Emma Bradley, one of the council’s young women and girls key workers: I love him what’s your problem?”: Supporting Girls vulnerable to child sexual exploitation and Maria Ellery from the Clinical Commissioning Group: Sexual Exploitation: the role of Health. Two CEOP (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) films will also be shown: Exploited and Exposed, two short films about staying safe in the real world and staying safe online respectively.
Schools around Merton will be giving their own assemblies to address child sexual exploitation and to provide information and support to pupils who may be concerned about a friend of another child at their school, or who feel they may need help themselves.
As part of the work Merton does around child sexual exploitation, each Merton secondary school including the academies and special educational needs schools, have a teacher especially trained to deal with child sexual exploitation issues that may arise at school. Pupils, staff and parents can go to them for help, advice and support.
Merton Council cabinet member for children services Councillor Maxi Martin said: “Merton is a wonderful place where most of our young people can thrive, receive a good education and a positive start in life. But, as with places up and down the country, there will be the more vulnerable who we have a duty to look out for. Every single one of us has a responsibility for all young people in Merton and if any of us has concerns about a child in our street, in our extended families, a friend of a son or daughter perhaps, there are knowledgeable and expert people here to talk to. If the decent majority stand together, we can all beat this and ensure those guilty of child sexual exploitation are brought to justice.”
Notes to editors
The Helping Hands Pledge is a national initiative led by the National Working Group for Child Sexual Exploitation.
The council is organising drop-in workshops for parents at Morden Baptist Church, Thursday 19 March; 18:00 – 19:00.