No matter the image a young person portrays to the world they are still a child – that’s the message to Greater Manchester communities as part of a week of action to raise awareness of child exploitation.
The campaign’s powerful imagery will highlight how children can be misjudged or stereotyped due to their behaviour, who they socialise with or the clothes or make-up they wear.
The message of the campaign is simple – any person under the age of 18 years of age is still a child and they are vulnerable to exploitation.
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Bev Hughes, said:
No matter the image a young person portrays to the outside world they are still a child – that’s the important message behind this week of action to raise awareness of exploitation.
There are, sadly, numerous ways in which a child might be exploited. It might include criminal exploitation or even sexual exploitation. Child exploitation is a despicable crime and tackling it in our city-region is an absolute priority. Police, local authorities and our other criminal justice partners are doing more to tackle this problem now than ever before, but we require the support and cooperation of the public to make this illegal behaviour a thing of the past. Children deserve a childhood. If you are worried about a young person or think you have spotted any of the warning signs, please immediately report your concerns to the police.
The week of action, beginning Monday 7 October, will start with the broadcast of a film highlighting how young people can become involved in organised crime, and explores the signs to look out for of someone who is being exploited.
Warning signs include:
Young people going missing or travelling to areas where they have no obvious links or connections
- Unexpected, repeated or prolonged absence from school
- Money, clothes or accessories which they are unable to account for
- Receiving an excessive amount of texts and phone calls
- Relationships with controlling or older individuals or groups
- Carrying weapons
- A significant decline in school results or performance
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing – appearing withdrawn, anxious or depressed
The impactful film stars pupils from Oulder Hill secondary school in Rochdale and will be sent out for use in schools across Greater Manchester as part of an education pack.
Assistant Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police (GMP), Mabs Hussain, added:
Tackling the exploitation of children is an absolute priority for the police. We are doing more to tackle this problem now than at any point in the past and we encourage everyone to understand just how easily children can become exposed to and caught up in exploitation. Abusing a child for a sexual or criminal purpose is absolutely reprehensible and we will seek to actively target and apprehend those responsible. It does not matter how a child may look, how they behave, who they hang around wit, or what clothes they wear. If you have any concerns about a child or you think that you may have seen any of the warning signs that indicate criminal or sexual exploitation may be taking place please report your concerns directly to the police. We have specialist dedicated teams in every borough across Greater Manchester investigating this form of child abuse. If you suspect someone is involved in this or you are suffering yourself, please contact police on 999.
Gail Hopper, Director of Children’s Services at Rochdale Borough Council and Greater Manchester lead for complex safeguarding , said:
When we reflect on the impact of children being sexually or criminally exploited, we should also recognise that this often includes them being trafficked away from their families – sometimes for great distances, and being subjected modern slavery. The impact of this can be life changing and is extremely difficult to recover from, with long lasting effects on their mental health. We’re delighted that our film will mark the launch of this important week of action. It’s incredibly powerful to have young people tackle such an important topic as how to spot the signs of children being exploited. The young people involved, their school and families should be very proud of the valuable resource they have created that will help other young people across Greater Manchester and beyond; it is a stunning achievement that will have a far reaching impact I’m sure.
Tackling the exploitation of children and vulnerable people is a priority for GMP and partners, which combines the work of police, local authorities, criminal justice agencies and the voluntary sector who work together to tackle and raise awareness of criminal exploitation and how to report it.
This partnership approach has led to the introduction of a specialist multi-agency Complex Safeguarding Team sited in every borough of Greater Manchester. These teams have been building on the work of Programme Challenger and It’s Not Okay to focus on all aspects of exploitation, in addition to supporting victims and disrupting and apprehending those responsible.