A joint approach to stop the exploitation of children has been agreed across Merseyside.
It means that all the agencies in Merseyside involved in keeping young people safe from harm will take a consistent approach to cases of exploitation or missing children, to ensure that no young person slips through the net.
On May 1, Merseyside Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the five local Safeguarding Boards, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley, Liverpool and St Helens launched the new Merseyside Child Exploitation and Missing Children Protocols, which they will all now work towards together.
Sefton Council Chief Executive Margaret Carney said: “As individual Safeguarding Boards across Merseyside, we have always worked to our own individual protocols around child exploitation. Last year we decided to build upon this existing work to launch a pan-Merseyside approach. The aim of these protocols is to continue and improve the work already done in individual areas to protect children from exploitation – be that sexual or criminal.
“Exploitation of children exists in lots of different forms and it is not always obvious to the victim or their families, when it first starts happening. We want this joined up approach to not only tackle the problem but also to change culture and opinions. A lot of children involved in crime are actually victims of exploitation and organised crime groups are grooming, coercing and abusing children and young people to work for them. Our new protocol includes pathways and assessments tools that can help all agencies to identify those children who are at risk and help put a stop to this behaviour – offering support to victims, disrupting criminal groups and prosecuting those involved.
“Similarly the new Missing Children Protocol will ensure all missing children are reported and identified at the earliest opportunity to reduce their risk of exploitation and offer the support at the right time.”
The launch event took place at Everton Football Club and representatives from the local five Safeguarding boards, strategic services such as children’s homes and referral units, alongside representatives from the voluntary sector all attended.
Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said: “Alongside our partners, we have a duty of care to protect young people from harm and this new innovative, multi-agency approach will mean a consistency across the board.
“The introduction of the new protocols shows how, as a partners, seriously we take these issues and that we are leading the way in putting a stop to child exploitation. Sadly we know child exploitation can affect any young person and have a devastating impact on their lives – that’s why it’s so important for us to work together to ensure we provide the best possible quality of service for those most vulnerable in our communities.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “Keeping our young people safe must be a priority for all public agencies. Today’s launch demonstrates that this responsibility is taken very seriously by all the partners here in Merseyside.
“As a region we are committed to working together to deliver a consistent, high-quality service that prevents exploitation of all kinds and protects young people, no matter where they live. Sadly, we know that some young victims do not recognise that they are being exploited. That means we need all professionals to know how to spot the signs that a child may be at risk and take the appropriate steps to keep them safe. These pan-Merseyside protocols provide the tools, the risk assessments and referral pathways to ensure the right response at the right time for young people who may be vulnerable.
“I thank everyone who has worked so hard to get to this point today and to all the partners for their on-going commitment to improving the protection and care we provide for young people in Merseyside.”
Ellie Fairgrieve, Senior Service Coordinator, Catch22 Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation Service: “Catch22 believe there should be no barriers in responding to Child Exploitation, and our team are excited to continue our work with all five local authorities and Merseyside Police to keep children safe. The launch of the revised exploitation protocol, referral forms and risk assessments mean that all forms of exploitation will be considered and that more professionals will understand the risks of criminal exploitation. Merseyside are leading the way in fighting child exploitation and, as practitioners, it’s wonderful to know that young people will receive a consistent response- no matter where they are on Merseyside.