Two initiatives launched in Bradford to prevent youngsters falling victim to sexual trafficking, gang violence and organised crime are helping to ensure the city is at the forefront of the fight against child exploitation.
According to a report to be presented to Bradford Council’s executive next week, both the Trusted Relationships and the Breaking the Cycles schemes are having an impact on those most at risk.
Supported by the Home Office, the Trusted Relationships project fosters links between youngsters and adults, who are trained to offer early intervention if they fear a child is at risk of either being drawn into criminal activity or being abused.
Launched in 2018, it has so far worked with more than 2,000 youngsters, aged between 10 and 14 years old, and it has funding to run for at least another two years.
Deborah Buxton, the children’s services manager for Barnardo’s in Bradford, one of several organisations involved in the scheme, said: “It is vital that children and young people are able to recognise the signs of exploitation so they can help to keep themselves safe.
“We’re committed to tackling this issue and are proud to have delivered workshops covering child criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation, trafficking, gangs and knife crime.”
Read more: Human trafficking is happening on our doorstep, says head of Sheffield anti-slavery charity
The Breaking the Cycles initiative also targets young people, who have associations with those linked to organised crime gangs, such as county lines drug dealing operations.
A partnership between the council’s youth service, West Yorkshire Police’s youth offending team as well as schools and voluntary sector organisations, the programme was designed to lead to a greater understanding as to how vulnerable young people are drawn into criminal or antisocial behaviour.
Jane Booth, the chairwoman of Working Together to Safeguard Children – The Bradford Partnership, said: “Being able to share intelligence and learning so we can understand the risks to both children and adults means that we can develop innovative ways of tackling these terrible crimes.
“However, those who carry out abuse will always find new ways of doing this, so we can never be complacent.”
The report, which will be discussed at the executive meeting on November 5, claims the number of children deemed to be at risk of child sexual exploitation has decreased. However, work is continuing across the district to protect children from online grooming and child sexual exploitation. Almost 43,000 pupils have so far received lessons on online safety from the Bradford District Cyber Team.
The portfolio holder for children and families, Coun Adrian Farley, said: “In Bradford, we will not tolerate these crimes and the council and its partners are working to tackle them head on.”