A year-long campaign targeting child exploitation in Cumbria has been launched this week.
The It’s Not OK campaign will have an initial focus on the exploitation of young people before moving on to other areas of concern including online safety and healthy relationships.
Child exploitation is where children and young people are manipulated and coerced into committing crime.
Children as young as 10 in Cumbria are being put in danger by criminals who take advantage of their vulnerability.
Gill Rigg, independent chairman of the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “Tackling child exploitation in Cumbria is a key objective for the CSCP.
“This is an important campaign.
“We want to get the message out there that any child, in any community, is vulnerable to exploitation.
“This campaign aims to raise awareness of this often hidden crime.
“Together with our partners we are committed to protecting children from harm, and we are working to inform, educate and prevent child exploitation.
“It is important that everyone can recognise the signs of exploitation and know where to turn to for help so that interventions can be put in place at the earliest opportunity.
“If people know what to look out for, they can take steps to help a child that is being exploited.
“Everyone in society has a responsibility to do all they can to protect children.
“Together we can support children and parents to be aware of the dangers and know there is someone to talk to if they’re concerned.”
The campaign has been launched by CSCP, which is made up of representatives from Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria police and crime commissioner Peter McCall, Morecambe Bay CCG, North Cumbria CCG and other agencies working with children and families, in partnership with the NSPCC.
Mr McCall said: “Most complaints I receive from the public concern antisocial behaviour, driving offences and so on.
“All important issues, but this campaign highlights largely unseen crime which targets the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Exploitation of children has to be the most despicable and damaging crime and I join with the Constabulary in making it clear we will do all we can to catch and prosecute offenders.
“The campaign will shine a spotlight on child exploitation among children and young people, parents, practitioners and the wider Cumbrian community.
“It is essential that we highlight how to spot the signs of exploitation and where to report concerns.
“We urge people to report any suspicious behaviour to Childline or the NSPCC helpline.
“The chances are, if it raises concerns and looks dubious, it probably is and this is not an issue with which to take a risk.
“The message is a clear one, if you see something, say something.”
Materials to support this campaign and further information, can be found by visiting http://orlo.uk/qG2zV