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New partnership to tackle child sexual exploitation in Highlands


By Alan Hendry

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A new partnership has been launched to tackle the sexual exploitation of children in the Highlands.

It comes amid fears that youngsters across Scotland are being groomed by sexual predators.

The collaboration involves Police Scotland, Highland Child Protection Committee, Highland Council and the charity Barnardo’s Scotland and is funded by the RS Macdonald Trust.

The aim of the new service, known as RISE (Reducing the Impact of Sexual Exploitation) Highlands, is to reduce the risk, harm and impact of exploitation for children, young people and families living in the area.

A Barnardo’s Scotland’s RISE Highlands adviser, based at Police Scotland in Inverness, will provide support to frontline officers and training to key agencies providing a coordinated response to child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The adviser will work closely with the police, helping in identifying and disrupting perpetrators and their networks, protecting current victims and preventing potential victims by bringing together intelligence information.

Peter Nield, assistant director of Barnardo’s Scotland, says the multi-agency collaboration will provide a coordinated response to CSE.
Peter Nield, assistant director of Barnardo’s Scotland, says the multi-agency collaboration will provide a coordinated response to CSE.

Peter Nield, Barnardo’s Scotland’s assistant director, said: “Working in partnership with Police Scotland, Highland Child Protection Committee and Highland Council sharing skills, knowledge and intelligence will provide a coordinated response to CSE.”

The four organisations hope many other Highland agencies will become part of the collaboration, increasing the partnership and widening the scope of the service across the region.

Mr Nield added: “Having CSE advisers co-located within police divisions, and embedded within local child protection agencies, will help ensure that the right systems and supports are in place that identify and respond to child sexual exploitation and improve outcomes for vulnerable and at-risk children and young people.”

Detective Inspector Craig Thomson of Police Scotland said: “Children across Scotland are being groomed by sexual predators for the purposes of sexual exploitation. We also know that children may not realise that they are being exploited.

"Building on our strong partnerships across public protection and working within communities to tackle child sexual abuse, including CSE, is key to raising public awareness and preventing children and young people being sexually abused.”

Mhairi Grant, independent chairperson of Highland Child Protection Committee, said: “Children may not realise they are being exploited or may be too afraid to ask for help. We need to recognise the signs, listen to young people and take action against perpetrators.

"RISE Highlands will use the skills and knowledge within the partnership to provide a coordinated response to CSE in the Highlands."

Highland Council’s executive chief officer for health and social care, Fiona Duncan, said: “CSE is often hidden, with perpetrators using violence, coercion and intimidation to exert power over children and young people. By taking this proactive, multi-agency approach we aim to reduce risk and ensure the right support is in place to prevent children and young people becoming victims of people who seek to exploit them."

For more information about RISE Highlands, contact hollie.drever@barnardos.org.uk


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