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Taxi drivers and bouncers could help tackle child sex abuse

Taxi drivers, night club bouncers and hotel receptionists could play a role in tackling child sexual exploitation.

“We can’t just leave this problem to child protection authorities, this is everybody’s concern,” says Roma Thomas of the International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire.

“Everyone from parents to the taxi driver taking a girl to a well-known party house late at night needs greater awareness and understanding of the problem.”

A new pilot training programme targeted at key workers within the night time economy, is one of several initiatives led by the children’s charity Barnado’s which aim to better safeguard children from sexual exploitation.   

The pilot programme (currently running in 12 local authority areas and to be evaluated by researchers from the International Centre), will help hotel receptionists, security staff and others know how to respond to signs of risk for children and young people.

“Understanding local factors in a particular town or area – what’s going on and where the hotspots of potential problems lie – is a crucial part of the programme,” Roma Thomas explains. “Training workers in the night time economy is an innovative and much needed approach to tackling child sexual exploitation.”

Too many people, including parents and carers, are still in the dark about the risks of child exploitation, signs of abuse and how best to keep young people safe, research by the International Centre suggests.

The Centre’s evaluation of an existing six to eight week programme designed by Banardo’s to raise community awareness and work directly with both parents and children to help prevent the exploitation, found many parents bewildered and isolated. The Families and Communities Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FCASE) programme worked with more than 200 families and children where a low or medium risk of sexual exploitation had been identified. During the programme, parents and children received separate but individual support from their key worker, as well as new information on how to stay safe.

“Some of the parents thought themselves fairly internet-savvy but found that they were not and didn’t properly understand how perpetrators groom children or tell-tale signs of abuse such as a child suddenly acting out of character, becoming withdrawn, or having money or items which they can’t have been able to buy,” Ms Thomas points out.

In particular, the programme helped children and parents improve their relationships so that it was possible to make agreements – for example, about internet use or curfew times – and discuss the risks of abuse and how to avoid them.

Thirty case studies of participating families in the research found the level of risk to children, following FCASE, fell in 80 per cent of cases. “Bringing parents into the picture, as well as working with young people, was crucially important,” Ms Thomas states.

Researchers from the International Centre will present a range of examples of their pioneering research in the field of child sexual exploitation to an audience of sixth form and college students at an event on 10 November held during the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. The event aims to showcase research across a series of projects, including films made by young people.

Recent high profile cases in Rotherham, Derby, Rochdale, Telford and Oxford have highlighted the on-going problem of child sexual exploitation in the UK. More collaborative, partnership based working – between statutory authorities, the voluntary sector and youth service outreach  are now urgently required to better safeguard children and young people at risk, researchers insist.

Further information

  • Ulrika Meegolla, Media Relations Manager
    Telephone: 01582 489399, ext: 9399. or: 07734 981212

Notes for editors

  1. Event: Applied Social Research – Welcome to Our World
    Organiser: Roma Thomas
    Date: 10 November 2015
    Audience: Sixth form school and college students
  2. The 13th annual Festival of Social Science takes place from 7-14 November 2015 with over 200 free events nationwide. Run by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Festival provides an opportunity for anyone to meet with some of the country’s leading social scientists and discover, discuss and debate the role that research plays in everyday life. With a whole range of creative and engaging events there’s something for everyone including businesses, charities, schools and government agencies. A full programme of events. You can also join the discussion on Twitter using #esrcfestival. Logos for the festival can be downloaded.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.


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