West Lancashire pupils get clued up on child sexual exploitation

Officers from the Deter Team, who focus on tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE), have secured funding to help deliver educational sessions to schools across West Lancashire.

Eight schools have signed up for the ‘Respect Me Too’ workshops so far, with the first taking place this week at a high school in Skelmersdale. The one day programme is aimed at Year 7 pupils (aged 11 or 12) and will focus on how youngsters may be groomed.

The sessions will be led by Freedom Personal Safety, a social enterprise that specialises in delivering personal safety and healthy relationship workshops in schools and the wider community, and supported by police officers and teachers.

Using local cases, discussion and interactive activities the programme aims to increase awareness and explore issues surrounding CSE, enabling the children and their peers to identify vulnerabilities and prevent any existing problems from escalating.

Pupils and teachers will be signposted to the most relevant support agencies and it is hoped that the sessions will create and reinforce good links between the police and schools so that they have the confidence to spot the signs and help to tackle the issue together.

Funding of £2,600 was secured by officers through the Community Safety Funding scheme run by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

DC Liberty Wadsworth of the Deter Team, Skelmersdale Police, said: “This really is an excellent opportunity for us to work closely with schools. We’ll equip both the pupils and teachers with the information they need to know about spotting the signs of CSE and how they can refer any concerns onto us or one of the other agencies in Lancashire.

“Tackling CSE remains one of our priorities across the county and these educational sessions are just another part of our on-going commitment to protecting children, preventing child abuse, helping victims and targeting offenders, ultimately bringing them to justice.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, Clive Grunshaw, said: “Helping young people to be safe online is key to ensuring that they can’t be exploited or groomed through social media, gaming sites or other online platforms.

“Protecting vulnerable people is one of the key priorities of my Police and Crime Plan and I am happy to be able to support this initiative to help keep our young people safe.”

Julie Tweedale, Director of Freedom Personal Safety, added: “We believe prevention work of this kind empowers young people to make safe choices and be aware of how they can take steps to reduce risks, particularly when they are online. Working in partnership with the schools and the Deter Team means we can pool our knowledge and experience to raise awareness with young people across West Lancashire.”

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