Government launch new £2 million scheme to protect children at risk of exploitation

Children at risk of being targeted by gangs or violent crime will get additional support from a new Government programme.

Youngsters in danger of criminal or sexual exploitation will have access to specialists across education, health, social care, police and the voluntary sector, the Department for Education (DfE) announced.

The Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme offers every area in England help in tackling a range of threats such as gangs, county lines drug dealing, online grooming, sexual exploitation, trafficking or modern slavery.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds (pictured) said: “Being safe at school and having a stable home life is the best form of protection for the children as they grow up – but we know that those who are the most vulnerable, are the most at risk of exploitation from those who want to take advantage of them.

“We are all united in cracking down on those who try to lead vulnerable young people down a dangerous path, and the threats they face are multiple and complex.

“We must make sure that we work together and this new approach to better support teachers, police and health professionals will improve the expertise and guidance available to all those who care for and educate young people.”

Councils can apply for support from the £2 million scheme to tackle specific threats in their area.

This could include help from experts in tackling exploitation, help in assessing needs and threats, online learning materials, and setting up research projects to improve knowledge about threats to children outside their home.

The launch comes one day after the first meeting of a new Ministerial Taskforce on Serious Youth Violence, chaired by the Prime Minister.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) found that in 2017 more than a third (35%)of police forces reported evidence of child sexual exploitation in relation to so-called ‘county lines’ activity.

This refers to a practice used by criminals of using children and young people to traffic drugs from one region to another, often in rural areas.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: “The grooming techniques now being used by county lines gangs are similar to what we see in online sexual exploitation of children.

“Often young people don’t see themselves as victims and are flattered by feeling part of a group and gifts, so they are less likely to speak to police.

“That’s why a joined up approach involving teachers, doctors, parents and others is crucial and this new programme will bring all our efforts together to help keep our young people safe.

“Child protection is a key policing priority and we will continue to do all we can to pursue and prosecute criminals who exploit the vulnerable.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Victoria Jones / PA Wire.