A CAMPAIGN to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Reading is taking place this week to coincide with National CSE Awareness Day.
CSE Champions from the Council and its partner organisations will be spreading the message ‘If you see something, say something’ at events around the borough and through specially prepared display boards.
National CSE Awareness Day, on 18th March, aims to highlight the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation, encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
Council officers from Children’s Services, school nurses and officers from Thames Valley Police were among those asked to write a pledge or message about CSE on hand-shaped card as part of a social media campaign, called #HelpingHandsRDG.
Pledges include: “Raise awareness, empower and motivate” and “to speak to friends who work in different fields to raise awareness.”
The messages will be mounted on boards and displayed in locations across the borough, including the Civic Offices foyer in Bridge Street.
Reading’s CSE Champions from within the Council, schools, Police, health and voluntary organisations, will also be playing a part.
This year’s local campaign, Reading Against Child Exploitation (RACE), is focusing on child sexual abuse in sport, following recent well-publicised national cases. As this year’s CSE Awareness Day coincides with the Reading Half Marathon, champions will be handing out ‘Stop CSE’ leaflets to the crowds around the course. Some volunteers will also be handing out flyers to other sports groups and clubs they are involved in throughout the week.
Local authorities, police forces, public bodies and charities work together every 18th March to raise awareness of CSE.
Members of the Council’s Children Services team raise awareness of CSE all year round. They provide training to taxi and minicab drivers who are required take a two-hour session on Safeguarding Children and CSE as part of their licence. They have also been providing training to Reading Buses drivers to help them spot young people on their vehicles who may be at risk.
Cllr Jan Gavin, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:
“The key message for National CSE Awareness Day, and for the rest of the year, is that everybody has a part to play in protecting children from sexual exploitation.
“If you are concerned that a child is being sexually exploited you should tell someone. If you see something, say something.”
Reading Local Policing Area Commander, Supt Stan Gilmour, said:
“Thames Valley Police is pleased to be supporting National CSE Awareness Day. We are committed to safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our community and our force-wide campaign, Hidden Harm, is currently focussed on online child abuse.”
Alex Walters, Chair of Reading Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), said:
“The LSCB is the partnership of all the agencies involved in safeguarding children from abuse, including sexual exploitation, and would encourage everyone to understand the signs that may mean a child is being exploited and to raise their concerns to ensure children are protected.”
More details about National Child Sexual Exploitation Day and the topic of CSE can be found at http://www.nwgnetwork.org/
Anyone who has concerns about a child they suspect may be a victim of sexual exploitation or abuse should call the Council’s Single Point of Access on (0118) 937 3641 during normal office hours, Thames Valley Police on 101 or the emergency duty team on (01344) 786543 out of hours.