A new £700,000 National Lottery funded programme has been launched to tackle child exploitation across London.
The Children’s Society will support young people including victims of criminal exploitation through ‘county lines’ drug dealing, labour exploitation through under-age work in places like nail bars or car washes and child sexual exploitation.
As part of the three-year Disrupting Exploitation programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity across the UK, the national charity will also work closely with partners including the Metropolitan Police, voluntary groups and councils.
Across the country, tens of thousands of young people are at risk of exploitation but some are treated as criminals when they might have been trafficked or groomed and are actually victims of modern day slavery.
The Children’s Society’s practitioners will test new ways of disrupting exploitation. This will include working with police, social services, schools, youth offending teams, businesses, faith groups and community organisations to identify risky locations and highlight instances where children are not recognised as victims.
The charity will deliver training to ensure everyone can spot the warning signs and help disrupt exploitation – for instance, at pupil referral units, transport hubs, takeaways and sports clubs.
Rhiannon Sawyer, The Children’s Society’s Greater London Area Manager, said: “The stories we hear from young people who are exploited by criminal gangs are absolutely heartbreaking
“Lured by promises of financial rewards they are then effectively enslaved to work underage for a pittance or trafficked to carry drugs, and this exploitation often involves the use of threats, violence and sexual abuse.
“These are not troublesome teenagers, they are vulnerable children in desperate need of help.
“This funding will enable us to work with not just with these young people but also parents, the police, councils and community to raise awareness of the grooming process and the risks involved, and to disrupt this cycle of exploitation.”
The Children’s Society will work one–to-one with young victims of labour exploitation and child sexual exploitation across Greater London including advocacy and group work, and education about risk, coercion and grooming.