Finding ways to galvanise communities to identify and support young people who may be suffering from child sexual exploitation (CSE) was the focus of the most recent Croydon Strategic Partnership’s November Congress.
The meeting, held at Fairfield Halls on Thursday 26 November, was attended by around 200 representatives of organisations and businesses from across Croydon. Delegates were asked the important questions: ‘can you see it, can you help stop it?’ as part of the ‘say something if you see something’ campaign, which is jointly run by Croydon Council, the Metropolitan Police and the London Safeguarding Children Board.
Speakers called on professionals and members of the community to work together to raise awareness and stop this abuse. Delegates made pledges on behalf of their organisations saying exactly what steps they planned to take.
Pledges included taxi firms committing to train their staff about what possible warning signs to look out for when driving passengers and displaying helpline numbers in their vehicles. Head teachers also promised to ensure that exploitation is included in the sex education curriculum in Croydon schools.
Charities offering support to victims agreed to do more to promote their services across the borough, and young people themselves made the pledge to look out for signs of their friends being exploited, promising to do more to support them if they thought there was a problem.
A specially-commissioned film featuring local young people talking about their own experiences of sexual exploitation was shown for the first time as a way of emphasising the devastating impact that this has on people’s lives.
Key speakers included Laura Butterworth, programme and project manager of the Safer London Foundation, and council leader Tony Newman, chair of Croydon’s Local Strategic Partnership.
Attendees also heard from the MsUnderstood Partnership, which works to safeguard young people from peer-on-peer abuse, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Missing People, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), and Croydon police.
“Croydon Congress was a chance for the borough’s stakeholders to look at ways to work more closely together against this terrible crime.
“It was challenging, and some of the materials we shared made difficult viewing and reading, but child sexual exploitation is everyone’s concern and we want to unite the community in its commitment to protecting vulnerable young people.”
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice