Wednesday, 18 March is National Child Exploitation Awareness Day, which aims to highlight the issues surrounding child sexual and criminal exploitation, encouraging everyone to think, identify and speak out against abuse.
The council and partners in Knowsley, including Merseyside Police, are continuing to raise awareness of this sensitive issue by informing, educating and ultimately preventing this form of child abuse which can have devastating effects on the lives of victims and their families.
As part of this work, children and young people, their parents or carers, teachers or professionals working with children are encouraged to visit the listen to my story website – www.listentomystory.co.uk. The listen to my story campaign raises awareness of child exploitation, the signs to look out for and importantly, where to get help and support.
On Wednesday (18 March), Knowsley’s multi-agency Shield team (who work with children to protect them from being exploited as well as targeting offenders) will be raising awareness of the issue through visits to sexual health clinics and GPs, engaging with children’s care homes to help them spot the signs of exploitation as well as visiting fast food outlets, youth centres and leisure centres.
Cllr Margaret Harvey, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility, so if you have concerns that a child or young person is being exploited in some way, please report it. It’s really important that we educate our communities about the signs and vulnerabilities of child exploitation so that together, we can tackle it.”
On the Listen to my story website, there is lots of advice to parents and carers to help them spot the signs that may signal their child is being groomed or exploited – these include:
- Regularly missing from home or school and staying out all night.
- Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn.
- Change in physical appearance – new clothes, hair style, cuts and bruising or injuries.
- Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can’t be accounted for.
- Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use.
- Receiving free substances from others such as cannabis or other drugs.
- A significantly older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends.
- Spending excessive amounts of time online or on their mobile and becoming increasingly secretive about this activity.
- Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour or increased offending.
- Sexual health problems.
If you have concerns about a child or young person in Knowsley, report it to Knowsley’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding on 0151 443 2600. Alternatively, you can call Merseyside Police on 101 (999 in an emergency) or Crimestoppers (anonymously) on 0800 555 111.