The subtle signs someone may be being exploited are being explained during a unique countywide training programme.
Councils in Essex, Southend and Thurrock have joined forces to produce an e-learning programme to offer frontline staff guidance on how to spot the signs of exploitation and what to do if they suspect it is happening.
The work received £35,000 funding as part of the Violence and Vulnerability Programme established by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and partners across Essex. The programme funds projects to reduce the risk of young and vulnerable people being groomed into a life of crime and help those affected by gangs to take the steps to leave.
Fliss Ayre, senior commissioning officer, Essex County Council, said: “This piece of work has been developed as a collaborative approach by Essex, Southend and Thurrock councils.
“It is quite unique; we have not found anything else like it out there. There is lots of work being done out there on specific areas, but this programme joins it all together and makes the links clear.
“We hope this will help people to recognise the signs of when someone is being exploited. We are not expecting everyone to be experts, but we would like them to be able to recognise the signs among people they work with or see in their day to day roles. We want them to have the confidence to see when something does not seem right and the knowledge of where to go to for help.
“At the moment, staff are given training on safeguarding, but this will give more specifics around exploitation and the signals – which can be quite subtle – they may not have been aware of. We are not so much seeing the physical aspects of exploitation anymore, but the subtleties that you might not otherwise notice, like a victim being offered a better social group or status among their peers if they complete a task. It could just be a slight change in someone’s behaviour that you can’t explain.”
The course will provide candidates with links to the appropriate resources to be able to signpost potential victims to the support available.
Fliss said: “It is really important that everyone can access this information. Having the confidence to say ‘that isn’t right’ and the know-how to make a referral is vital.”
The e-learning will go live in March, with candidates who complete the course receiving a certificate. The Violence and Vulnerability partnership will keep the training under review and consider further developments as part of its work during 2020-21.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Tackling serious violence and protecting young and vulnerable people are both key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. We are working hard in Essex to tackle violence in our communities and are well ahead of other areas of the country. We have already created a Violence and Vulnerability Unit, have invested in a range of activities for young people at risk and strengthened our enforcement activities. We are investing in activities and interventions that stop the vulnerable being drawn into a life of crime and help those already involved to exit gangs safely.”
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