Agenda item

Child Exploitation Update

To receive a presentation from the Director of Children’s Services on matters affecting child exploitation across Hampshire.


The Committee received a presentation on child exploitation (Item 6 in the Minute Book) from representatives of the Director of Children’s Services.


The background to the Willow Team was set out and Members heard that the team had been active since September 2015 in helping to safeguard children and young people.  It was explained that Hampshire’s response to exploitation was proactive and forward thinking with a strategic response headed through four local safeguarding boards.  It was heard that the Willow Team worked closely with the Missing, Exploited and Trafficked (METT) Police Team based in Hampshire Constabulary in formulating a multi-agency response looking at intelligence and emerging threats for children and the severity of their risk.  Issues such as the long-term impacts of child exploitation were highlighted to Members which included the impact on mental health.


The complexities of child exploitation were explained and the different aspects of these were highlighted such as trafficking and County Lines, which children could be drawn into for varying reasons such as childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences.  Officers also explained the models of child exploitation and the PUSH factors for exploitation which could be triggered by issues at home, school and emotional difficulties.  Members also heard that organisations in Hampshire were working hard to update information to provide a clear picture of child exploitation in Hampshire, and the presentation detailed the number of child sexual exploitation incidents in Hampshire over recent years and the increase in children arrested for drug dealing.  It was also noted that the age of children involved in such incidents was decreasing and the use of social media methodology was also highlighted.


Officers explained that serious and organised crime was an ongoing national issue and the National County Lines Coordination Centre had identified eight key harm areas, which were currently police led but there was a move to bring in other agencies such as social work.  With regards to County Lines, it was heard that this was a business model for organised criminal gangs nationally, and exploitation of local children was rife, who could then become trapped in a drug debt which was often difficult to escape from.


Officers detailed the breakdown of figures which were current as of February 2019 for the County Lines network in Hampshire separated into Northern, Western and Eastern areas.  The safeguarding approach by Children’s Services and the Police was set out as well as an explanation of the risks.  It was noted that the Willow Team work hard to find windows of opportunity to help exploited children but there were often difficulties with engagement.


In response to questions, Members heard:

·        That the Barnardo’s exploitation tool measures the risk of exploitation, and the distance travel tool measures progress at the start, after 6 weeks and towards the end of intervention.

·        That the Willow Team work with schools, and specific year groups to highlight potential risks of exploitation, especially if a child in that year group has become involved in exploitation.

·        That the Willow Team work closely with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and attend a variety of police forums as well as involvement in drug related harm groups.

·        That discussions at such groups have focussed on difficulties for youths in reporting crime without worry, and work has been ongoing with the OPCC and schools around this issue.

·        That there is a need for a new model of youth work, and new ways to reach out to children and young people, and the engagement of existing youth organisations.

·        That evidence for criminal activity can sometimes be difficult to find, but methods such as disrupting and displacing activities can prove to be effective.

·        That the relationship between the exploiter and the exploited can sometimes prove to be very complex with misplaced affection and loyalties towards the exploiter. 

·        That engagement with Magistrates and the use of the National Referral Mechanism was important in identifying victims and perpetrators. 




That the Children and Young People Select Committee noted the update provided.


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