Merton Council hosted an event to raise awareness of all forms child exploitation on National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.
Council officers, teachers and staff from other organisations who work to keep Merton youngsters safe from harm, including the Met police, attended the event on Monday 18 March. Merton Council, which is committed to its work with its partners and families to fight child exploitation and support victims, held the event for the national annual campaign day.
The campaign, to raise awareness of the criminal as well as the sexual exploitation of children, aims to create a zero tolerance approach to adults developing inappropriate relationships with young people. Everyone is being urged to ‘think, spot and speak out about abuse’ rather than assume someone else will report concerns.
Child sexual exploitation covers all kinds of manipulation or coercion of young people, under the age of 18, into sexual activity. Perpetrators can be adults or other children and victims can be targeted online as well as in person. This year the national campaign promotes a broader understanding of the exploitation many young people face in areas of criminal activity – including drug dealing and county lines – as well as modern slavery and trafficking.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s services, Councillor Kelly Braund said: “Our event was held as part of our ongoing commitment to fight child exploitation and do everything we can to support victims and work with their families. The well-being and safety of all children in Merton is paramount.”
“It is vital that we raise awareness of the issues around all forms of child exploitation and promote knowledge of the signs which indicate a young person is being harmed, as well as challenge the victim-blaming assumptions and language that reinforce messages from perpetrators around shame and guilt. Victims of exploitation can be both girls and boys from all backgrounds and the signs can sometimes be hard to recognise.”
“We really want to encourage everyone in the community to take responsibility and help keep our young people safe from harm. This is why we are backing the call for this National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day for everyone ‘to think, spot and speak out’ to end the devastating harm exploitation has on young lives. Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent all forms of child exploitation in Merton.”
If you have a concern around child exploitation or the welfare of a child call Merton’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8545 4226 or 020 8545 4227 (Out of hours: 020 8770 5000). If you suspect a child is at immediate harm from sexual or criminal exploitation call the Met police on 999.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
For information on National Child Sexual Exploitation Day and to access resources to help young people, parents and businesses understand what child exploitation is visit www.stop-cse.org