Shropshire partners update on work to tackle criminal child exploitation
A strong partnership has been working with around 200 Shropshire children this year at risk of criminal exploitation or who are being exploited. This aims to help stop them becoming victims of this crime; or if they are already are, to support them to exit exploitation.
Criminal exploitation of children in Shropshire takes a variety of forms, including forcing children to sell drugs, become part of county lines gangs or child sexual exploitation. The forms of exploitation are often interlinked.
Councillors in Shropshire have received an update from partners involved in preventing criminal exploitation of children on how this work is progressing in the county.
This sets out how partners involved in the Shropshire Safeguarding Community Partnership, including a number of different council services, police and schools, are working together to help children at risk of criminal exploitation.
Partners report that the number of county lines gangs operating in the county has reduced over the last year.
Since the start of 2022, there is a revised ‘pathway’ approach in Shropshire, with agencies working very closely to help identify children who may be at risk of exploitation, and to reduce that risk by stepping in to disrupt and stop contact with those exploiting the child, and to give the child the support they need.
This uses much of the best practice around tackling exploitation from the National Working Group Network, the UK network of children’s safeguarding professionals, which educates, informs and develops practice to prevent child exploitation and abuse.
An OFSTED children’s services inspection this year said that the partnership working in Shropshire was effective at identifying children at risk.
Experience in Shropshire shows that one form of exploitation often leads to further risk of exploitation, and during 2022 the partnership has seen 121 new children referred to it because they may be at risk. This triggers a series of actions for partners working with the child and their family to reduce the risk of exploitation.
The partnership, through the newly formed TREES team (Together Reducing and Ending Exploitation in Shropshire) is also working to raise awareness among professionals, schools, families and the wider community of the risks surrounding exploitation, and to recognise the signs so that children at risk can be helped. This has focused on events in Oswestry and Shifnal, with a further event in Ellesmere planned later in November.
Sonya Miller, Shropshire Council’s assistant director for children’s social care and safeguarding, said:-
“The council last received an update on how we are combatting child exploitation in 2019.
“Our approach and understanding of criminal exploitation of children has developed considerably, to combat the breadth of exploitation that children are exposed to, and this is one of the priorities for the SSCP and all its partners.
“Exploitation of children is happening in Shropshire. No one agency can tackle this alone. We must all work together, and work with the community, to ensure we are doing all we can to raise awareness, identify those at risk, and disrupt the activity that can lead to exploitation.”