“My mum was born without a thyroid gland. She has learning difficulties and some physical problems, and she gets depressed. Her problems have affected me and my sister in lots of ways.
“The Young Carers worker called a meeting with people like my teacher and a social worker from the Disability Team. My family and me went to the meeting. We came up with a plan to help my family in lots of ways. The main thing was to get some support for my mum so that we didn’t have to help her so much, and we wouldn’t get into messes all the time.
“Because my teachers were involved in the meetings, they knew about things at home and I had lots of help when I was doing my GCSEs. Young Carers also arranged for me to see a coach which helped me to decide on some goals for the future.
“I did OK in my GCSEs, and I am now at college and have just got an apprenticeship.”
Abbie (not her real name)
One in five secondary school-age children have active caring roles at home.
With a quarter of people experiencing mental ill-health at some point in their lives, mental health support for young carers has never been so important.
Last year Devon Young Carers, which is commissioned by Devon County Council, actively supported over 1,100 young carers in Devon.
But they’re just the ones we support. There is lots more we can do to support, which is why we are asking young carers and their families to contact Devon Young Carers.
This year, Carers Trust has launched the Count Me In! campaign asking schools to do more to identify young carers and to make sure they are recognised and supported. That includes making sure that young carers know how to access their local young carers service.
Devon Young Carers is supporting the campaign and taking their message out to schools and colleges this week, for national Young Carers Awareness Day, Thursday 30 January.
They are talking to school Heads, teachers and pupils about the support available through Devon Young Carers.
Many schools already recognise young carers among their pupils, and through their welfare support teams provide support to help them with their education and wellbeing.
Most Devon schools have young carers champions who are known to pupils. These act as go-to contacts for young carers within the school, but they also ensure that schools stay tuned into young carers needs, with their policies and ways of working.
The Devon Young Carers team will be looking at how schools already support young carers, and what else they might be able to do in future.
Councillor James McInnes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the young carers service said:
“We hear stories like Abbie’s often, and they never fail to inspire me. These are young people, dealing not just with the things that most other young people are dealing with – schools, friendships, their own mental health for example – but they’re also dealing with the physical and mental impact of caring for someone else.
“We see it too often that young carers are sometimes not obvious to others and that their needs go unnoticed or not responded to.
“I’m pleased to say that most of our schools are very aware that they have young carers among them, and many provide a level of support to them.
“But I would like to see that recognition more. Not just in our schools, but in all of us as friends, neighbours and society as a whole.
“This week, Devon Young Carers are visiting schools across the county. They will be helping them look at ways they can improve their carers’ support. They’ll be talking to young people too to raise awareness that among their friends and colleagues, there may be some that have caring roles at home.
“I’d like everyone to have our eyes open to young carers. And I’d like young people who are involved with the care of someone else at home to know that there is support available to them.”
Liz Smith, Devon Young Carers Service Manager, said:
“Many schools are doing a great job supporting young carers and Devon Young Carers would like to see more schools recognised for their good work by them achieving the national Young Carers in School Award through the Carers Trust. If any schools would like support to achieve this they can contact our specialist Schools Support Worker.”
Devon County Council commissions the Devon Young Carers service. They, the Police and health services – the partners of the Devon Children and Families Partnership – are working together to try to ensure that all children and young people, young carers included, have healthy and happy lives. Visit our website for more information about young carers.
Get involved on social media by using the hashtags #CountMeIn and #YoungCarersAwarenessDay, or check out @carerstrust @devoncarers and @westbank
The report traces the experience of a young girl, identified as ‘N’, who lived with her parents and elder sister.
Aged 19, N disclosed to her mental health worker that she had been sexually abused between the ages of 10 and 16 by a man 10 years her senior. That man has since been convicted of multiple offences against her and has received a lengthy custodial sentence.
As a child, N was known to a number of different agencies including health, mental health, police and children’s social care.
But the report found that her sexual abuse, which began more than a decade ago, was not identified or responded to, even when her abuser openly declared their sexual relationship.
It states that as a result of her abuse, N has suffered significant and ongoing mental health problems including previous attempts at self-harm.
The report says that at the time there were failures by the agencies to recognise indicators of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation; that there was a failure to appreciate adolescent risk in the context of neglect; that multiple changes of staff at the agencies prevented N from disclosing her abuse at an earlier age; that staff were not ‘hearing’ disclosure; and that there was poor information sharing and working together in the context of complex and multiple risks.
But the report acknowledges that since that time much has been done across Devon to improve safeguarding of children, with particular attention to neglect and sexual abuse.
It says that the independent inquiry in 2014 into Child sexual Exploitation in Rotherham led agencies across the UK to focus much more on detection and management of CSE. In Devon, the report says, that inquiry led to ‘considerable improvements since the time when N suffered her abuse – in both knowledge about CSE and how to disrupt the perpetrator’s activities in order to protect the victim.’
It says that the Devon Children and Families Partnership, which includes Police, health and children’s social care, now have a well-established CSE subgroup, and that its partners have made significant improvements to practice over the last two years. Policies have improved, staff are well trained, and there are multiple independent organisations in the county that provide targeted support and advice for young victims of exploitation and abuse.
Jo Olsson, who chairs the Devon Children and Families Partnership, said:
“This is a tragic case of a young person who suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of an abuser who groomed her and her family. At the time, the agencies missed opportunities to pick up on the abuse and to intervene to prevent it. Agencies did not have then the same focus on child sexual exploitation and abuse as they do now.
“The learning from this case will serve as a reminder to all agencies of our shared safeguarding obligations and for the need for practitioners to be alive to situations that could lead to disclosure.
“Today, Devon is better placed to recognise child sexual exploitation and abuse, with policies and sharing of information across partner agencies, and staff who are expertly trained.
“But this alone does not prevent abusers from exploiting the vulnerable, and all agencies should continue to work ever more closely to improve their practice.”
This article was first published on the Devon County Council News Centre, 12 April 2019.
But while media reports often highlight cases of adult grooming and child abuse, Devon and Cornwall Police say the most likely form of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the south west is perpetrated by other young people.
It’s sometimes referred to as ‘peer on peer’ exploitation, and its victims are young males and young females.
“People may be unaware that CSE can be perpetrated by young people aged 18 or younger, and they themselves may also have been victims of CSE,”
says Detective Chief Inspector Alison Lander, Devon & Cornwall Police and Force lead for CSE.
Recent research led by Plymouth’s Safeguarding Children’s Board found little awareness and understanding among young people of peer on peer sexual exploitation.
Their research showed that this form of exploitation in particular was not widely recognised or understood as a crime, which is preventing children from reporting it.
They found that young people are also not reporting sexual exploitation because they worry that doing so would lose them friendships; they’re concerned about how their parents might react; or that they’ll be seen as wasting police time.
Monday 18 March is a national awareness day for highlighting CSE.
Authorities across the peninsula are using the day to say to children and young people,
“If you are put in a situation where you feel pressured sexually, please report it. It’s OK to tell someone.”
Lisa, (not her real name)
Lisa is 15 years old and lives with her mother. She began to go missing, leaving the house during the middle of the night to meet peers, and there were concerns about her drinking alcohol during while out.
Her behaviour in school and at home deteriorated with no clear reason. Her mum found information on Lisa’s phone, indicating that she had become sexually active, and having unprotected sex.
Lisa said that she’d exchanged indecent images of herself with some of boys at her school.
On occasions that she went missing, Lisa was drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis with her male friends. She’d had sex with one of the boys while under the influence, and he’d told his friends about it.
Lisa started getting messages from other boys asking her to send pictures of herself in her underwear. Lisa felt uncomfortable, but said ‘everyone sends nudes’. And besides, she felt it was nice to have boys be interested in her in that way.
One boy said that he could get some cannabis, and he offered some to Lisa in exchange for sex. She’s thought he was joking, but the boy repeated it a few times and on a later occasion with him, she went along with what he asked.
Regional Head of Service for the NSPCC, Sharon Copsey, says:
“Having early conversations about healthy relationships and consent is vital to tackling child sexual exploitation before it starts. We know that young people don’t always understand that what’s happening to them is abuse.”
Detective Chief Inspector Alison Lander, said:
“Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal. It’s a difficult message to convey to young people, but it’s really important that they are aware of risk and how to avoid it. Crucially they need to know how to report it, and to have confidence to do so.
“The public can really help us detect and prevent CSE among young people by knowing the signs and reporting any concerns they have.
“It’s not just parents, or teachers and carers who can help spot the signs of CSE. Anyone working in a service industry, such as taxi drivers and hotel workers, shop keepers – anyone who may be able to spot vulnerable young people who may be at risk of exploitation or in an exploitative relationship – can also help to spot the signs and to report any concerns.”
Andy Bickley, Independent Chair of Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, said:
“We are committed to working with local organisations to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation and CSE Day is the ideal opportunity to help improve awareness.
“This latest research shows that it isn’t just adults that exploit children and young people, it can also be their peers, so it’s really important that we make sure our young people know what the dangers are, and also what support is available.”
Schools across the South West and services that work with young people, are actively raising awareness of CSE among young people. Parents and guardians are being encouraged to do the same at home.
To find out more about child sexual exploitation, and how to spot the signs, visit the Devon Children and Families Partnership website.
There are a number of local and national agencies that can help, including Barnado’s, NWG, NSPCC, as well as local Safeguarding Children’s Boards including the NHS, Social Care, Education and the Police.
More information about Child Sexual Exploitation and NWG’s CSE Awareness Day, 18 March 2019, is available online Devon and Cornwall Police’s website.
This portal is an accessible way for partners to share information about vulnerability and crime and will make sharing intelligence easier and more effective.
Sharing information partners lawfully is vital so we can work together to understand the threat and harm to the most vulnerable people, as well as the risk others pose.
If you believe a child or adult is vulnerable or being exploited can use this form to provide intelligence or information that you think Devon and Cornwall Police should be aware of.
Intelligence submitted via this form could include a variety of points such as; information about a concerning incident, suspicious activity, an unusual exchange between two or more people or something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
When supplying information please provide as much detail as possible, (full names, addresses and dates of birth whenever known, descriptions, vehicle registration details, telephone numbers). Anything that can assist the police in identifying the people and places involved or developing the information further. If you know the identity of the person(s) or place(s) please ensure that is included to make our response as effective as possible.
In most cases we won’t be able to give updates on what has happened with the submissions however with the new portal we will be able to provide partners with data on numbers and types of submissions from their organisations which I know many of you wanted. Crucially all of the data used will be included in the profiles we share with you around organised crime and vulnerability.
Please remember that this isn’t a referral form and does not replace any pre-existing referral or statutory safeguarding procedures.
Always call 999 if there is an emergency, a crime is in progress, someone suspected of a crime is nearby, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used or threatened.
The Children’s Society have created a guide to intelligence which you may find useful.
Child Exploitation is a form of child abuse. It is not a specific criminal offence but the term encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences.
The Government produced this definition and guidance for Child Sexual Exploitation in February 2017.
Children and young people in Devon are at risk of and are victims of Child Exploitation (CE). It can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or background and it happens in all parts of the country, not just urban areas such as large towns and cities, but in rural villages and coastal areas too, just like Devon.
Those being abused may not recognise what is happening because their abuser makes them think they are in a relationship and are special. CE can also happen as a result of violence, threats or intimidation. Therefore it is important that professionals don’t rely on the child or young person disclosing their abuse in order to identify that CE is taking place.
Further information for professionals, including risks, indicators and actions to be taken are available in the Devon Children and Families Partnership Procedures Manual.
If you suspect a child is in immediate danger you should call the Police on 999.
If you have significant safeguarding concerns about child, please discuss them with your designated Safeguarding Lead and contact the MASH on 0345 1551071.
Concerns about a child or young person at risk of exploitation, people who may exploit children and related locations of concern should be submitted to the MACE.
The MACE is a multi-agency professional meeting. It is aimed at preventing children and young people from being exploited by working together to gather, share and understand information and intelligence in order to identify potential risks and for agencies to use their resources to protect the child or young person. Child exploitation requires a multi-agency response and the MACE is supported by a diverse membership.
They also discuss adults and young people who may be at risk of committing child exploitation and related locations of concern that might be being used for the grooming or exploitation of children, for example a private dwelling, car park, park or hotel.
If you have any form of exploitation concern about a child or young person that does not meet the Child Protection threshold complete Section 1 of the ‘Safer Me Assessment’ and send it to the MACE email box to identify if any other agency has information relevant to the case.
When a child or young person is open to Children’s Social Work the exploitation risks need to be managed through their multi-agency plan so professionals should liaise with the child’s social worker about their concerns. They do not need to be brought to MACE unless they are seeking to share or gather additional information on networks, locations or persons of concern.
You should also make a MACE submission if you have a concern that someone may be involved in the grooming or exploitation of children or young people or you suspect that a location is being used for the grooming or exploitation of children. Complete either Section 3 of the ‘Safer Me Assessment’ if your concern relates to a location, or Section 4 if your concern relates to a person of concern.
Normal Child Protection procedures apply and should not be delayed or stopped due to the MACE process.
This tool helps all professionals working with children identify those at risk of exploitation. It provides a guide for what to look for and what actions should be taken depending on the risk identified.
If your concern relates to a child and you are submitting Section 1 of the ‘Safer Me Assessment’ where there are also concerns about a suspected person of concern or location being used for the grooming or exploitation of children, Section 3 and/or Section 4 should also be completed dependent on the context of your concern.
The professional who has reported a exploitation concern in relation to a child at risk is expected to attend the MACE meeting. If they are unable to attend, they are expected to send a representative. Only in extenuating circumstances will a child be discussed without anyone representing them.
If you need help completing the assessment and knowing what action to take, you can call the MASH on 0345 155 1071 and request advice from the REACH team (Reducing Exploitation and Absence from Care and Home). Your call will be taken by a Customer Services Advisor who will forward your details and enquiry to the REACH team so that they can respond.
Children can be exploited in many different ways, to help you understand and recognise what might be going on here are a few models that you should be aware of:
The young person is in a relationship with an older partner who exerts a great deal of influence and control over them due to an imbalance of power. The young person is likely to believe they are in a serious adult relationship and not recognise its exploitative nature.
The young person is in a relationship with another young person who is coercing them into some form of sexual or criminal activity with their friends. Based on national and local analysis, the majority of child sexual exploitation in Devon is perpetrated by the peer groups of the victims and over half of those that sexually exploit children are under 18 themselves.
The young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced /coerced into criminal or sexual activity with multiple people. They can be sent to other locations to sell drugs or coerced into ‘sex parties. Young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network.
Any of the above models may involve online exploitation where the young person shares sexual images or videos or is coerced into carrying out criminal or sexual acts via web-cam. According to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre most child sexual exploitation offences take place online. Analysis by the centre reveals that 13 and 14 year olds represent the largest single victim group of online exploitation.
Exploitation is not restricted to one ethnic group. Abusers and victims are known to come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Boys and young men can also be victims of sexual exploitation, however they may be less likely to disclose offences or seek support, often due to stigma, prejudice or embarrassment or the fear that they will not be believed. Girls and young women can be used to sell drugs or be economically exploited.
Women can be abusers too. They may use different grooming methods but are known to target both boys and girls.
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common in child exploitation cases as many abusers target vulnerable young people. Their vulnerability is often due to economic or physical circumstances that leave them with few choices, however, it is important to remember any child may be targeted so it is important to help them keep safe.
All forms of exploitation can be difficult to spot and children may be the victims of multiple forms of exploitation. It is not always easy to spot as the warning signs can often be confused with other difficulties young people can experience. These are some of the main indicators of exploitation (although it is not an exhaustive list):
The Safer Devon Partnership Exploitation Toolkit provides information to help professionals and volunteers understand, identify and report signs of exploitation.
PACE (Parents against Child Sexual Abuse) have created a free online learning module about the signs and symptoms as well as the impact of CSE. It also gives advice on what to do when you think a child might be at risk of CSE.
Over 80,000 are children are reported missing each year.
Children run away for all sorts of reasons, including trouble at school or arguments within the family. They may leave on impulse or in protest. Sometimes they may be drawn away by something outside of the home such as older friends. On most occasions they return home safely.
When a child runs away they are at risk of serious harm. You do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting somebody missing. You can make a report to the police as soon as you have done as much as possible to locate your child and that you consider them to be missing. There is no minimum waiting time. Dial 999 in an emergency or call your local police force immediately on 101.
A child going missing is often a cry for help and a sign that something is wrong in that young person’s life. They may be experiencing violence at home, drug or alcohol issues, difficulties at school, bullying or sexual abuse.
Running away or going missing is also a key early indicator of criminal exploitation or child sexual exploitation (CSE). Research by The Children’s Society has found that many as 70% of children who are sexually exploited go missing from home.
Young people can run away for many reasons:
Children who run away may also exhibit other behaviour, which can include:
All of these factors, including running away, indicate that there are more serious underlying issues that a child or young person needs help and support with.
The Children’s Society has a developed a series of guides with useful information and advice on what to do when a child goes missing and how to prevent children from going missing in the first place:
Parental child abduction is when a parent or relative, or someone acting on their behalf, removes a child from approved custody or violates their custody agreement. Read more about parental child abduction.
Many people have heard about Child Sexual Exploitation happening in other parts of the country but find it hard to believe it’s happening here in Devon. Being aware of it is the first step towards putting a stop to it.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of abuse.
A young person is encouraged, manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act, (such as penetrative sex, sexual touching, masturbation or the misuse of sexual images – for example on the internet or by mobile phone) often in exchange for something.
This could be part of a seemingly consensual relationship, or could involve control through force, threat, manipulation – for example in return for attention, affection, gifts, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay.
Often, the first step is someone befriending a young person over time to gain their trust or have control over them. This is called grooming and involves making them feel ‘special’ so they become attached or even think they are falling in love with the person exploiting them.
The young person may think that their abuser is a friend or even their boyfriend or girlfriend. They are often older, wealthier and stronger and may have a status that makes them seem ‘cool’ to others. There is also often a difference in, gender, intellect and resources. Sometimes the abuser will strengthen their control over the young person by driving them away from those who would usually look after them, whether that’s family, friends or carers.
When the behaviour of their abuser starts to change, often slowly, the young person is likely to feel trapped, isolated and scared. Many children are too frightened to come forward or find it difficult to acknowledge that they are no longer comfortable in the relationship and don’t realise they are being abused. They may suffer in silence for years without anyone to talk to about what they’re going through.
CSE affects boys and girls of all backgrounds and from all communities, right across the UK. Children are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation between the ages of 13 and 15, but younger victims can also be targeted.
Abusers can be men or women, and not just adults. CSE can also happen between young people – peer to peer and especially within gangs or social groups.
Part of the challenge of tackling child sexual exploitation is that it often happens out of sight, behind closed doors or even online. The children and young people involved may not be aware of it or understand that non-consensual sex (sex they haven’t agreed to) or forced sex – including oral sex – is rape.
Young people experiencing problems at home who go missing or are in care can be vulnerable and particularly at risk, but child sexual exploitation can also happen to those from a loving, supportive home.
Child sexual exploitation is hard to spot, even for the young person affected, because there is no standard profile of an abuser or victim.
Many of the signs that a young person is being sexually exploited could be seen as common teenage behaviours but keep an eye out for increased instances of changes in behaviour that may be signs of grooming. These could include:
Less common behaviours and indicators of exploitation could include:
Are you a young person who wants to find out more about CSE, including signs that someone might be trying to groom you or how to tell if someone you care about is being exploited? There’s lots of information, including how to get help on Devon County Council’s website.
If you think a child could be in immediate danger contact your local police at once or dial 999.
If you are concerned about a child’s welfare, contact Devon’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or 0845 6000 388 out of hours or use the ‘report it’ button at the top of this page.