SOME 46 Wigan youngsters are currently being supported by specially trained workers – because they have been groomed or are deemed to be at risk from perverts.
The numbers are increasing and over the last few years the Wigan Safeguarding Children Board has been working with Greater Manchester Police to tackle the problem under the heading of Project Phoenix.
The number prosecuted has also increased but the council is unable to collate exact figures from GMP due to data protection.
The council’s main aim is identify and offer support for victims of crime, gather intelligence to investigate offences and prosecute offenders and to assist the public in recognising the indicators and telling behaviours of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
Over the last 12 months, the WSCB has developed SEAM (Sexual Exploitation and Missing) meetings and worked with Integrated Safeguarding and Public Protection team (ISAPP) to look at domestic abuse.
The WSCB has offered free online training for parents to spot and respond to the signs of grooming and sexual exploitation through www.safeguardingchildrenea.co.uk.
It has also improved training of 171 frontline staff from a number of agencies, including police, probation, children’s services, and the Bridgewater Health Trust,
Multi-agency teams visited taxi firms, bars, pubs and pizza places across the borough giving out information, posters and car stickers.
There are plans to extend this campaign in the next three months to cover bus companies, hotels and trains (the last via the British Transport Police).
Door staff at pubs and clubs have also been trained in how to spot vulnerable young women under the Best Bar None scheme. A total of 107 schools have bought into WSCB training which includes identifying the signs and how to make a referral on a child and a campaign is planned over the next month to engage schools and raise awareness of what to look out for with students.
An awareness campaign, The More You Know The More You See, was also launched at a conference to highlight the cause.
The work was recognised as outstanding by Ofsted two years ago and has been adopted by other local authorities.
Coun Jo Platt, cabinet member for children and young people at Wigan Council, said: “Over the last year in particular we’ve been doing lots of work in the community to raise awareness of the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation, including our current The More You Know, The More You See campaign.
“We’ve been working with schools, local businesses and other public and voluntary sector organisations to train and educate residents and staff and how to spot it.
“It’s no surprise then that there has been an increase in people reporting CSE.
“While we’re working hard to prevent CSE from occurring in the first place it’s encouraging to see more people identifying what it is coming forward to report.”
If anyone is worried about a child call 0161 856 5050.