More needs to be done to support victims of child sexual exploitation, a multiagency panel said this week.
An audience of teachers, school children, carers, social service workers, police and charity workers heard how more must be done to provide support to victims at an event in Cardiff.
The event, at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay, was to launch the Building Bridges Project, supported by the children’s charity Barnardo’s and South Wales Police. The project has been created to educate adults and children to the realities of exploitation in their communities.
The audience heard how young people too often feel as though they are unable to tell anyone about abuse they may be suffering, with many fearing as though they won’t be believed. This results in vast amounts of crime relating to the sexual exploitation of children not being recorded.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jones of the South Wales Police said: “It’s important young people feel confident in asking for help.
“We only know about the issues that are reported, and my fear is that they’re just the tip of the iceberg.”
Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services, told the audience the project would help those who run education services to learn how they can keep their young people safe.
He said: “We want to help teachers talk to children about the dangers of child exploitation.
“Safeguarding is everybody’s business. It begins by every single person in the system knowing what part they can play, then linking their contribution to others.”
Michelle Gough, from Bernardo’s Seraf service, which works with children who are sexually exploited, said: “The feedback Seraf has had from young people we work with is that they don’t feel able to speak to local police about problems within the community.
“This event is intended to increase the awareness amongst professionals of the support that young people need. We hope the outcome of the discussions will feed into recommendations to the police, education and other professionals.”