Council gives helping hand to CSE awareness campaign

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Somerset County Council is backing this month’s National CSE Awareness Day.

Taking place this Sunday, 18 March, the day aims to improve understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) so the public can help all the organization involved in safeguarding children.

Work to stop CSE in Somerset is led by the Somerset Safeguarding Children’s Board (SSCB) which is made up of representatives from all the organisations which work together to safeguard children, including the County and District councils, police, and health services.

CSE is when someone takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive anyone under the age of 18 in sexual activity, for their own or other people’s benefit or enjoyment. This frequently involves using threats, bribes, violence, humiliation, or emotional blackmail.

It does not always involve physical contact and can also occur through the use of technology. It is often difficult to identify as those who have suffered may not at first consider themselves to be victims and believe they are in a ‘loving relationship’.

Key signs that a child may be at risk of CSE include:

  • Going missing or regularly returning home late
  • Regularly missing school
  • Unexplained expensive gifts
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour

Anyone who knows or suspects a child is in immediate danger should dial 999 straight away. If you suspect a child might be at risk or you need some advice about CSE you can telephone Children’s Social Care 0300 123 2224.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “CSE is not something that happens in faraway urban areas. It happens in all kinds of communities in all parts of the country including Somerset – as a court case demonstrated last year.

“There are lots of organisations and agencies working together to prevent it and identify it when it does happen, but parents, family members and friends have a role too.

“Open and honest conversations about friendships and relationships are really important. It can be difficult, but parents should also get involved in their child’s online life because social media is a major route for CSE.”

Through the board around 1,100 staff, including social workers, health professionals and school staff have received face-to-face training and a further 800 have completed online training. Nearly 400 professionals have attended conferences on the subject.

School safeguarding leads are provided with regular guidance and best practice around CSE and have been sent materials to help promote the Awareness Day. Schools have also been helped to develop their PSHE and healthy relationships education, with a specific CSE programme available to all secondary schools.

Sally Halls, Chair of the SSCB, said: “CSE is a particularly challenging area of safeguarding because those being offended against do not necessarily recognise themselves as victims.

“The professional agencies respond to the issue, but the public can help identify those at risk and raise concerns so awareness days like this are a really useful way of putting CSE in the public consciousness.”

A new regional CSE support services was launched in October, jointly commissioned by the County Council and the Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner.

More information about National CSE Awareness Day can be found here.

There is a wealth of online information on the subject from organisations including Barnardo’s , NSPCC and Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation.