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New initiative launch to combat child sexual exploitation in the Highlands with an advisor to be based in Police Scotland headquarters in Inverness


By Ian Duncan

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A new service has been launched to combat child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the Highlands in a move which coincides with CSE Awareness Day 2021 which is today.

It is the result of a new partnership between Police Scotland, Highland Child Protection Committee, Highland Council and Barnardo’s Scotland and funded by the RS Macdonald Trust.

The aim of the new service, Reducing the Impact of Sexual Exploitation (RISE) 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 CSE Advisor, based in Police Scotland headquarters in Inverness, will provide support to front line officers and training to key agencies providing a coordinated response to CSE.

The advisor will work closely with Police Scotland, assisting in identifying and disrupting perpetrators and their networks, protecting current victims, and preventing potential victims by bringing together intelligence information.

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 agencies across the Highlands will become part of the collaboration, increasing the partnership and widening the scope of the service across the Highlands.

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

Detective Inspector Craig Thomson, of the Public Protection Unit, Highland and Islands, N Division, 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, the independent chairwoman 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."

Fiona Duncan, Highland Council’s chief officer for Health and Social Care, 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."

The national CSE network will also make a significant contribution towards an informed estimation of the prevalence, nature and scope of CSE, both in local areas and across Scotland.

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



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