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New preventative service to tackle sexual exploitation in Cumbria

[A] new preventative service to tackle child sexual exploitation in Cumbria has been launched by Barnardo’s.

The focus of the new Believe initiative is on prevention and early intervention, working with children aged from 10 to 18 years and their families/carers, as well as educating children in schools to promote age appropriate understanding of healthy relationships.

Barnardo’s will focus the efforts of their specialist staff to support children and young people who are known to be at risk of exploitation or whose vulnerability and behaviours may lead to this in the future.

Parents or carers of these vulnerable children will also be offered specialist support to build resilience, explore different approaches when dealing with challenging behaviours, learn about digital dangers and how to put protective factors in place, as well as ultimately strengthen their parent-child relationship.

Barnardo’s Real Love Rocks training – a preventative programme developed to raise understanding of healthy relationships, grooming and online safety – will be delivered to Year 6 children in primary school settings across the county. Barnardo’s is working in partnership with schools professionals who are being trained to deliver this programme, to ensure this can be sustained by schools into the future.

Staff from the charity are also in the process of training a number of volunteers, who will provide ongoing mentoring for those young people considered to be vulnerable to future risk of sexual exploitation after they finish working with Barnardo’s staff.

For the past few years, Barnardo’s has worked closely with Cumbria Constabulary to run a missing from home support service, interviewing vulnerable young people when they return back home to identify the reasons they have gone missing and supporting them to try and reduce the risk of them going missing again.

Barnardo’s Children’s Services Manager, Rachel Head, who has developed the new Believe service said: “Across the UK, we know young people who regularly go missing are 70% more likely to be sexually exploited than those who do not. From our experience of working with young people in Cumbria who have been missing, we felt it was important to offer ongoing support to prevent vulnerable young people from falling victim to exploitation.

“We do this by working with them to reduce those behaviours that put them at risk. We provide education and support to boost their mental health and wellbeing and build their emotional resilience, as well as develop protective factors in their lives which keep them safe.

“Our holistic approach also includes individual ongoing support from mentors and significant work with these young people’s families and carers, as well as education in schools in an age appropriate manner.

“In today’s digital age and with young people spending more time online than ever before, children from all backgrounds have the potential to be susceptible to online grooming and exploitation. It’s vital that children are taught what a healthy relationship looks like so they understand what consent and respect mean. It’s also imperative that we as adults and services are doing all we can to equip our young people with the knowledge to navigate living in today’s society safely.”

The Believe service is being run by Barnardo’s using voluntary funds and is available to all children who live in, or are the responsibility of, the Cumbria region. It has been developed with the support of a number of local expert bodies.

The work of Barnardo’s new Believe service will complement the NSPCC’s Protect & Respect service, which delivers on a county wide basis in Cumbria to young people aged 10 to 18 years old. There are three strands to the Protect & Respect Service , which includes educational group sessions with young people, parents, carers and professionals, preventative work with those identified as being at risk of CSE, plus recovery and therapeutic work with young people who have been sexually exploited.

Barnardo’s staff also recently carried out Real Love Rocks training with Girl Guide and Scout leaders in Cumbria, so they could deliver the CSE awareness programme to their young people across the region. This training was funded by Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

For further information, please visit www.barnardosrealloverocks.org.uk

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