THE number of children in Wigan who are at risk of being targeted by sexual predators has more than doubled over the last 12 months.
New figures released by Wigan Council show that there are currently 39 young people who have been identified as a medium risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE), compared with just 14 last year. This makes the borough the most unsafe area out of 10 Greater Manchester authorities, jumping dramatically from fifth in 2014.
But Wigan has a much lower figure of youngsters at high risk, with six, one fewer than in 2014. Manchester has the largest number of children at high risk, with 26, followed by Stockport and Bolton which have 11.
The figures were announced to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the Project Phoenix’s It’s Not Okay awareness campaign
Project Phoenix is Greater Manchester’s multi-agency response to tackling child exploitation, bringing together police, local authorities, health partners, charities and other agencies to identify and safeguard young people at risk of grooming, and bring offenders to justice.
A spokesman for Project Phoenix said: “Tackling CSE is a priority for all 10 Greater Manchester Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards.
“The rise in the number of open cases in the last year reflects the dedicated work of the local specialist CSE teams, which proactively seek to identify and work with vulnerable young people who may be at risk of CSE.
“Lots of work has been undertaken to raise the awareness of CSE with parents, young people, teachers and other professionals, including how to spot the warning signs of CSE. This has resulted in more people coming forward to report CSE, confident that the police and other agencies will act on that information. The vast majority of the young people identified by the Phoenix teams as being at risk of CSE have not actually been a victim or disclosed that they are a victim.
“Therefore, a lot of the work of the Phoenix teams is focused on early intervention, working with that young person to prevent them becoming a victim. The launch of the It’s Not Okay campaign in September 2014, including the introduction of a website and comprehensive social media campaign has also led to the increase in reports of CSE concerns.
“Although awareness of CSE has increased in light of high profile cases across the country, it is still very much a hidden crime. The work of Project Phoenix and the increase in local reporting highlights that only by local authorities, police, health and other agencies working together can we effectively tackle CSE.
“We also need the public to work with us to tackle this problem and contact their local CSE team or their local police force if they are concerned about the safety of young person.”
Visit www.itsnotokay.co.uk for information for children, young people, parents, carers and professionals on how to spot the signs of child sex exploitation and what to do about it.