Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Shane McMurray, and Hull City Council’s Director of Children’s Services, Pauline Turner, outline the dedicated work taking place to help safeguard children and young people at risk of exploitation or abuse beyond the family network, and the support available for children, young people, families and communities.
In response to news coverage regarding Operation Marksman, Councillor Shane McMurray, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services said: “The experiences these girls from Hull and the East Riding have been through are absolutely horrendous. Our thoughts are with them and their families and I commend their great courage for coming forward and reporting what has happened to them.
“Anyone who exploits children in this way has no place in our society. We take child sexual exploitation extremely seriously and will continue to work with the Police, our neighbouring councils and with partners across our communities, to prevent it, raise awareness and support victims and their families.
“We all have a role to play in reporting any concerns we may have, however small they may be, to make sure that it can be rooted out and offenders brought to justice. Please do report any concerns you may have regarding sexual, criminal or any other exploitation of children and young people.”
Pauline Turner, Director of Children’s Services said: “I would like to praise the courage of these young girls in coming forward to report abuse, in what are incredibly difficult circumstances.
“We would like to reassure people living in Hull that a great deal of work takes place, across partner organisations, to identify young people at risk, to support them and to disrupt any potential perpetrators.
“We have a specifically trained team who are dedicated to supporting children and young people, and helping to prevent abuse beyond the family network.
“The Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing, Trafficked (VEMT) team build relationships with young people who are at potential risk of exploitation, working with their families as well, and they seek to gain the trust of the child or young person to be able to support them. The team listen to young people and work with them in ways that are accessible to the young person whether it be a walk in the park, or taking part in an activity with them, to help open up the pathways for communication. The VEMT team is part of a strong partnership and the holistic needs of the young person will be addressed. There is no time limit on support and we will help any child or young person for as long as they need it.
“A vital part of the work we do is to talk to people out in communities to gather information on any potential young people at risk, or potential perpetrators. The team talks to retailers, park wardens, neighbourhood policing teams and young people – all of whom are often the eyes and ears of the community. Through this work we gain a good oversight of areas and people of concern in the city. All intelligence of people of concern is also shared with Humberside Police and multi-agency action plans are put in place.
“Another significant part of our work is to deliver training about exploitation across organisations in the city, including what signs to look out for and how to help. We deliver training to schools, police, health; from GPs to health visitors, and out in communities from community groups to neighbourhood networks.
“If any young person is worried or would like some help or advice, please speak to a trusted person such as a teacher or parent. Young people can also make contact with the VEMT team through Facebook and Instagram. We also want parents and communities to know that they can seek help and advice, and, along with East Riding of Yorkshire Council, we have set up a dedicated phone service for people to talk to us on 01482 613560. The phone line is available between 1pm and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
“I would encourage anyone with concerns about children to report them to either Humberside Police, or the Safeguarding Hub on 01482 448 879.”