Posted: 13 February 2020

Rethinking spaces: bringing communities together to prevent exploitation

Our Prevention Team have been working all across the country in schools, high street stores, churches and more, to raise awareness of child exploitation.

Maryam, one of our prevention officers, has been delivering sessions in Reading mosques. Can mosques and local authorities work together to help young people who are in a cycle of exploitation or at risk of exploitation?

Creating safer environments for children

The project is all about raising awareness of child exploitation in Madrassa settings (faith based afterschool curriculums delivered in mosques), so that teachers and parents feel empowered to support young people who may be involved or at risk.

With support from the imams, I have been able to raise awareness of child exploitation in its various forms. The aim was to help equip and empower mosque staff to spot signs and indicators early on to help safeguard young people.

We also encourged the staff to think about using the physical space of the mosques, as well as the policies and procedures, to create safer environments for children and young people.

Working with the wider community

Within the community of Reading, there are pockets of young Muslim men who are at risk of criminal exploitation or already victims of exploitation and are on the cusp of going into care. Many young men and women are also experiencing sexual exploitation, but may not know how to access the support they need or who to speak to.

Together with Brighter Futures, we were keen to work with the wider community and seek support from institutions such as the mosques the young people attend, to develop contextual safeguarding, community-inclusive and preventative approaches.

Training imams and madrassa teachers

I delivered training to an audience of imams and madrassa teachers from four Reading-based mosques on the definition of child criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation, grooming, consent; signs and indicators a young person may be being exploited; how ‘county lines’ operates, the reality of life for the victims versus the image that is ‘sold’ to them; contextual safeguarding; and how imams and teachers can modify their practical spaces to make their environments ‘hostile to exploitation’.

'...the content was eye-opening and needed to be heard' - Madrassa teacher

Empowering staff to offer support

I hope that staff feel more confident and empowered to support young people who may be susceptible to exploitation. This could simply mean being more aware of the referral processes so they feel confident in making a referral, or feeling more confident about speaking to a young person who may be going through a really difficult time in their life.

Also, I hope staff can implement the solutions they came up with to think creatively about the space they have and tools they can use. For example, putting up CCTV signs and allocating child-only toilets during Madrassa hours.

What are the next steps for the project?

We’ve planned further training sessions with more imams and teachers at another mosque and a Muslim-run Saturday school in Surrey. 

I’m also facilitating an introduction between the local authority’s community care team and some local imams to start a dialogue and think about doing targeted work with young people. In addition, we want to hold an awareness raising session with parents in collaboration with the local youth offending team, as parents are often not aware of the signs, or do not know how to cope or access support.

 

The work the Prevention Team do is incredibly important in raising awareness of child exploitation. They have been consulting with statutory services such as police and social care to influence strategic decision making, share regional best practice, and provide training to these organisations at senior level.

Simultaneously, they are training community based groups such as churches and mosques, selected high street stores, children’s homes, hotels and transport companies, to name a few.

OUR WORK TACKLING CHILD EXPLOITATION

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