On 16 March from 1-5pm, the CCG’s safeguarding team and key partners, including Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, will have a stand in New Square, West Bromwich to raise awareness of CSE to the public. Children’s charity, Barnardo’s, is supporting this event and members of the public are invited to go along to find out more.
It is estimated that 954 children and young people are experiencing or at risk of CSE in the West Midlands. This can happen to children as young as eight and to both boys and girls.
CSE involves young people and children being 'groomed' and sexually exploited. It can take many forms, such as through an apparently 'consensual' relationship with an older person or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, cigarettes or alcohol.
Sexual exploitation is a type of child abuse. It puts a young person at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health. Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal.
In 2017 the CCG took strong action to combat CSE in Sandwell and West Birmingham with the launch of The CSE Superhero campaign - an innovative project developed in partnership with The Children’s Society, which is fully endorsed by NHS England.
The CSE Superhero theme was developed in response to a challenge from Julie Warren Sykes and her son Ben, the mother and brother of a young woman, Samantha, who was murdered trying to help a friend who was a victim of CSE.
The campaign recognises that health professionals are ideally placed to identify abuse and helps them to identify the signs and indicators of CSE and to safeguard children. Funding for the campaign came from NHS England.
Eileen Welch, Designated Nurse – Safeguarding/ Head of Service at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:
"The safety and welfare of children is of paramount importance and we have taken significant action through our innovative CSE Super Hero training resource for healthcare professionals.
"CSE is a problem affecting 1 in 20 children in the UK, which amounts to 5% of the population. This is the same number of people who are affected by bowel cancer and a similar amount by diabetes. If we think about how well equipped we are to deal with these illnesses, it is clear that more needs to be done to prevent and reduce the amount of children affected by CSE.
"Sexual exploitation can take many forms – both over the internet and within the community – and can be difficult to spot, unless you know what to look out for. Everybody has a key role to play by recognising the signs and reporting anything that they may see or experience, to help keep young people safe."
To raise awareness amongst healthcare professionals about CSE, NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG funded and commissioned the ‘Know the Signs’ film. The film starring Josie Lawrence, was produced by ‘Chatback’, who are a group of looked-after or birth children of foster carers.