Hotels, shops and restaurants have a vital role to play in tackling child grooming, sexual exploitation and child trafficking, according to a national coalition of organisations. Today (Tuesday 10 September) they joined forces to launch a campaign to tackle abuse taking place in the retail and hospitality industry.
The NWG Network and The Children’s Society have developed a campaign pack supporting local safeguarding children boards to work with retail, transport and hospitality businesses to protect children in their communities from child sexual exploitation.
The campaign - launched at an event in Parliament and attended by Home Office minister Damien Green as well as representatives from local government, the police and the hotel industry - is backed by the government and police forces.
Oxford and Rochdale
Recent high-profile cases of child sexual exploitation – such as in Oxford and Rochdale – have involved children being groomed or exploited in hotels, restaurants and other commercial premises. The Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry on child sexual exploitation in groups and gangs last year identified hotels, bed and breakfasts, shops and food outlets as key locations in which abuse takes place.
A forerunner to the campaign pack was developed in the West Midlands, in response to concerns that the Olympics could see a rise in child sexual exploitation. A number of young people supported by The Children’s Society project in the area mentioned being taken to ‘hotel parties’, where they were given drugs and alcohol and then sexually abused.
In response, The Children’s Society, West Midlands Police, Coventry Community Safety Team and other local charities contacted hotels in the city and ran awareness-raising sessions for staff. The NWG Network and The Children’s Society has built on that work and is now rolling out a campaign pack nationally.
Look out for abuse
The campaign pack launched today includes posters, leaflets and training materials for staff. It will help employees to look out for signs of exploitation, grooming and trafficking and provide information on what to do if they are concerned about a child. It will also assist employers to carry out risks assessments and vetting of staff.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children Society, said:
'The patterns of exploitation and profile of offenders vary from one area to another. But across the country children are being groomed, trafficked and exploited in locations such as hotels, pubs, takeaways and other premises.
'Preventing child sexual exploitation is everybody’s business, not just the police or social workers. It is important to work with the hospitality industry, so that their employees are confident in recognising the signs of exploitation and can help keep vulnerable children safe.
'After our work in the West Midlands, we now want to local business to see this taken up in every community.'
Sheila Taylor MBE, Chief Executive of the NWG Network, said:
'This campaign has been developed because of what the children we work with tell us about their experience, and what we have seen again and again in places like Derby, Rochdale and Rotherham and all over the country.
'We will only be able to tackle child sexual exploitation and trafficking if we all work together. This campaign pack has been developed in partnership with the police, charities, local businesses and local safeguarding boards. Only this kind of joined-up action will help keep vulnerable children safe.'
The campaign pack is available to local safeguarding boards and businesses through the National Working Group.
For more information - or an invitation to the launch event in Parliament - please call 020 7841 4422 or email. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
Notes to editors
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.
- The NWG Network has developed as a support group for our network working with children and young people who are at risk of or who experience sexual exploitation (CSE). Our network covers voluntary and statutory services and includes representation from all LSCB's and all partners, statutary and voluntary sectors and central government
- The ‘Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups’ is available on the Children's Commissioner website.