A new website and campaign called ‘Something’s Not Right’ has been launched to raise awareness of child exploitation in Warwickshire.
Child Exploitation Awareness Day is taking place on Thursday 18th March so Warwickshire County Council (WCC), Warwickshire Police, Warwickshire Safeguarding, Barnardo’s and the Police and Crime Commissioner are using the opportunity re-launch the Something’s Not Right campaign which aims to raise awareness of child exploitation (CE) in Warwickshire.
The team is appealing to parents, carers, professionals and the wider community to take responsibility to learn about child exploitation, understand how to spot the signs and know how to report it. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and children and young people spending much more time at home, child exploitation is still taking place in many forms.
Child exploitation is the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18. It can manifest itself in different forms, including child abuse, sexual exploitation, county lines drug dealing, human trafficking and online grooming. It is a crime that can affect any child anywhere, anytime regardless of their social or ethnic background or whether they are a boy or a girl. Hundreds of children and young people are victims of child exploitation every year in Warwickshire.
A young person from Warwickshire who was a victim of criminal exploitation says: “I’d never even heard of the word exploitation until people started saying that’s what was happening to me. I didn’t believe a word of it. I kept thinking, why are they interfering and why can’t people just be happy that I’ve got some new mates that actually bother with me?
“To begin with I thought it was well good that they were a bit older. When I look back now I can see they preyed on me. They made me feel so loved and cared for. Like I was the best thing in the world. Then bad things started happening and I just felt trapped. I felt as though I had no way out. Luckily that’s when professionals around me starting noticing stuff that worried them and I was given a support worker. With support I was able to understand that these ‘so called’ mates weren’t my mates after all and they were just using me.
“My support worker helped me see that none of this was my fault. I’ve come a pretty decent way since back then and whilst I still have bad days, I’ve got such good support around me and I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Friends, parents, carers – what you can do to help:
- Learn about the different types of exploitation so that you understand it better
- Know the signs – warning signs of exploitation include unexplained gifts, unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, changes in physical appearance such as weight loss, being absent from school, going missing, or being overly familiar with friends that you don’t know.
- If you think someone you know is being exploited, report it to help and protect that child or young person – your observations and phone call could make all the difference to an exploited child.
Around Child Exploitation Awareness Day, there will also be a number of activities taking place including two webinars for parents at 7pm on Tuesday 16th March and Thursday 18th March, focusing on mental health and emotional resilience, along with a Facebook Live Q&A session at 7pm on Wednesday 17th March for the public to pose any questions they may have around CE to experts from Barnardo’s*.
The refreshed Something’s Not Right campaign includes a brand new website which is packed full of information and resources around child exploitation, including the different types of exploitation, what signs to look for in a child or young person, and what support is available if you or someone you know may be a victim of child exploitation. The website also features some powerful real-life stories about victims of CE.
A young person from Warwickshire who was a victim of child sexual exploitation shares her story, she said: “I loved him. Well that’s what I thought at the time. He looked after me, bought me such nice things that I would never be able to get for myself. I was his princess and he would always tell me that he needed me just as much as I needed him. Then he asked me to sleep with this man he knows because he owed him money. He told me he was going to be killed if he didn’t pay up and that it was me that had the power to save him, so I did it.
“That’s when the problems really started. He would threaten to kill me and beat me up if I didn’t sleep with who he said. I was so grateful that people around me noticed something wasn’t right. I wouldn’t admit it at first, in fact not for a long time, but with the right help and support I realised that he didn’t really love me and was just taking advantage of me.
“Thanks to my support workers I’m now in a totally better place and for the first time in a long time feel like myself again. I’ve even started college and am hoping to become a support worker one day so that I can help other children who went through what I did.”
The Something’s Not Right website places a strong emphasis on training and raising awareness in the community, offering targeted training to schools, health organisations, the night-time economy (e.g. taxi drivers and bartenders) and licensed premises such as hotels, pubs, and clubs. There are also downloadable assets available for businesses and professionals to share on their own social media channels and in their premises.
Elaine Coleridge, Chair of Warwickshire Safeguarding, said: “It is crucial that we all unite against child exploitation for National Child Exploitation Awareness Day and beyond. If you see something that doesn’t look right, please don’t ignore it. We all have a responsibility to protect children and young people.
“We are encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.”
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe added: “We are committed to raising awareness and training professionals to help them understand how to prevent child exploitation happening. This campaign will ensure that as many people as possible think, spot and speak out about exploitation of the young and vulnerable and help heal the wounds of victims and their families.”
Cllr Jeff Morgan, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services added: “I am so pleased to see this resource launch in time for Child Exploitation Awareness Day which will help raise further awareness about this crime and how people can recognise and report it. Keeping children safe and well is a priority for all the agencies involved behind the scenes and we hope, through using this resource, that local communities can join us in tackling this issue and protecting young people.”
Detective Inspector Lisa Sears, Strategic Vulnerability and Safeguarding Lead for Warwickshire Police, said: “Together with our partners we are committed to protecting children from harm, which is why we have launched the new Something’s Not Right website to help inform, educate and prevent child exploitation.
“Individuals who abuse and exploit children pose a significant risk to our society. We will continue to identify and pursue them through the criminal justice system at every opportunity.
“Child Exploitation can affect young people from all walks of life, there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation but there are warning signs in children’s behaviour that may indicate something’s not right. It is important that everyone can recognise these warning signs and know where to turn to for help so that interventions can be put in place at the earliest opportunity.
“If people know what to look out for, they can take steps to help. We all have a responsibility to protect children and young people.”
Find out more about child exploitation and the support available by visiting the new campaign website www.somethingsnotright.co.uk
Follow Warwickshire CE on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and Warwickshire County Council on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share important content on warning signs, advice and how to report concerns around child exploitation. Get involved by using #CEWarwickshire on your own social media posts.
*If you would be interested in attending one of the webinars or the live Facebook Q&A session, register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Webinar – 7pm on Tuesday 16th March and Thursday 18th March (both sessions are the same so please only register for one)
- To join the Facebook Live Q&A session at 7pm on Wednesday 17th March, follow @WarwickshireCE on Facebook
Where to go for help and support
- For information on how to spot the signs of child exploitation, visit https://www.somethingsnotright.co.uk/spot-the-signs/
- For information and advice go to www.somethingsnotright.co.uk
- If you are worried about a child or young person, contact the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, on 01926 414144
- You can also make a report to Warwickshire Police via their website or by calling 101, or you can contact your local Children and Family Centre.
- Contact Crimestoppers confidentially and anonymously on 0800 555 111.
- Talk to trained counsellors on the 24-hour helplines run by ChildLine on 0800 11 11 and the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000
- If someone is in immediate danger, call the police on 999