With child sex exploitation so prominently in the news, there can be few people unaware of the risks to our children and young people.
But what they may not know is how to recognise the threat and where to get help – knowledge which is now being delivered by a powerful play in almost every secondary school in Derbyshire.
Chelsea’s Choice was launched on Monday (3 November) as part of a new CSE prevention project.
The play’s month-long tour will portray real-life experiences of exploited children, presenting clear awareness messages and information for students and urging teachers, parents, carers and people everywhere to report anything they feel is amiss.
The importance of promoting awareness, signposting support organisations, and pressing home the need to report abuse prompted me to jointly fund this production together with the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Boards.
Safe and Sound – a Derby-based organisation to which I have granted £41,876 this year to aid its work to end child sexual exploitation – will provide additional support at the performance sessions along with information leaflets for parents and carers.
Derbyshire Police will also host virtual advice surgeries every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-8pm throughout the tour at www.derbyshire.police.uk/chelseaschoice.
In backing Chelsea’s Choice I was strongly influenced by responses to my county-wide Youth Survey, which showed CSE to be a priority concern for young people before the shocking revelations in South Yorkshire.
What they told me led to their concerns being presented to delegates at my Youth Summit.
CSE is too often treated “as the elephant in the room.” Unless we talk frankly and openly we will not be able to encourage reporting such crimes and acknowledge the extent to which they are happening.
Over the years I have learned that engaging meaningfully with our young people means talking their language.
This I aim to do through my many youth engagement initiatives and support for schemes such as the school music tour that promoted awareness of anti-social behaviour and E-safety.
Whether through music, drama or straight talking, it’s vital that young people share their concerns with us.
Whether this be at a youth group or a large consultation event such as the one held within Derbyshire Police HQ for 11-24 year olds, it helps me, the police and our partners to provide the necessary protection and support to keep them safe.
I cannot stress how important it is to speak up and I urge everyone that if you see something, say something.