Is your child safe?

Boy wearing grey sweatshirt and jean with hood pulled over face sitting against a red brick wall

With the Easter holidays approaching when many young people spend more time without adult supervision can you be sure your child is not at risk of exploitation by criminal gangs?

Hanging out with older people, new possessions and being secretive are just some of the signs of child exploitation. And it’s not just a problem in cities and big towns – it’s happening in Hart too. 

That’s why we’re supporting National Child Exploitation Awareness Day which aims to highlight the issues surrounding child criminal exploitation (CCE), encouraging everyone to think, spot, and speak out against abuse.

CCE is a term used to describe when children and young people are manipulated or coerced into committing crimes. Criminals groom young people to carry out illegal activity on their behalf – such as selling and storing drugs, carrying weapons and committing burglary, robbery or theft.

All children are at risk of being exploited. Children from as young as seven have been criminally exploited in the UK, and in Hart, each month, an average of 10 Hart young people are identified as at risk of CCE and discussed in a multiagency meeting that seeks to protect them. The numbers may seem small, but the impact on each young person can be devastating.

At Hart our Community Safety team works with partners across the district to keep young people safe. This includes running the Stay Safe awareness sessions in secondary schools, holding the Think Safe event for Year 6 pupils and attending other youth groups by request to cover this and other key topics such as the risks of knife crime.

Kirsty Jenkins, Executive Director for Community, said: “Child exploitation can happen to children from any background at any age. Some criminals will deliberately target children who are vulnerable, such as those with problems at home or school.

“However, criminals will also target children who do not at first seem to be at risk. They may be happy at home and have good marks at school but may be looking for some excitement. Criminals target these children too as they have no involvement with services and won’t be associated with criminal activity.

“We all have a part to play in looking out for the signs of child exploitation and a responsibility to report any concerns we have.”

Know the signs of CCE

There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is being exploited by a criminal gang:

  • Being away from home more and being in places they wouldn’t usually be
  • Spending time with older people
  • Committing ASB / low level crime
  • Changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Unexplained injuries
  • New and expensive possessions
  • Deterioration in school performance or going missing from school

How to report CCE

Speak to the school, if known, to make them aware of your concerns and additionally report through:

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