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A programme to tackle child exploitation has been created in three key centres across the UK.

Pivotal to the initiative is the input of young people with first-hand experience of sexual or criminal exploitation who will help shape and design the programme, which will be delivered via a multi-agency approach involving youth workers and social workers.

Programme supported by lottery cash

Leading the innovation is the Children’s Society, which has secured £2.1 million of National Lottery funding to tackle child exploitation in three UK hubs.

The charity, which works with vulnerable children and young people, will use the funding to run the project across Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London.

Launched in July, it will see multi-disciplinary teams to run child sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and labour exploitation services over three years with a focus on driving long-term, sustainable impact for young people.

Working with local partners on child exploitation

The Children’s Society already has bases in London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands but the additional funding brings the opportunity for the charity to develop a new programme.

That will enable it to build on the services already offered and work with local partners – such as the probation service and youth offending teams as well as other agencies – to share insight, create opportunities and test new solutions.

County lines crime threat

Thousands of young people in the UK remain at risk of criminal, sexual or labour exploitation, with some facing arrest after being forced into such acts.

The Children’s Society suggests that some may have been victims of grooming, modern slavery or caught up in “county lines” crime, where urban drug gangs exploit vulnerable children to expand their criminal networks into rural areas.

Because much of the exploitation is hidden, it can often be difficult for agencies to recognise it and respond promptly and effectively.

Disrupting the exploiters

The new programme will provide one-to-one sessions with young people offering advocacy, therapeutic support, group work and participation.

The teams will also seek to disrupt those exploiting young people by working with local partners, including the police and local authorities, to identify risky locations for under-18s and train staff.

The society’s Director for Children and Young People Dara de Burca said:

“This programme will explore and respond to a range of exploitation where we hope to join-up the gaps and support young people, but also to go further and make tangible improvements to how child exploitation is dealt with or prevented in the future.”
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