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Barnardos and PSNI team up on new initiative to tackle child exploitation

Money seized from criminals will partly fund the new scheme to provide early intervention and protect vulnerable children in south and east Belfast.

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Photo posed by model
Image: Lars Plougmann via Creative Commons/Flickr

CHILDREN’S CHARITY BARNARDOS and the PSNI have teamed up to launch a joint initiative to tackle child sexual exploitation in south and east Belfast.

The jointly-funded pilot project by Barardos NI and the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme will allow a Barnardo’s worker to be based in Willowfield Police Station east Belfast, to work alongside the PSNI Public Protection Unit. This worker will provide early intervention for young people who are reported to the PSNI as going missing or where there are other concerns or indications of sexual exploitation.

“Child sexual exploitation is a very harmful and very hidden problem,” said Jacqui Montgomery-Devlin from Barnardo’s NI.  ”It is the exploitation of young males and females for sex below the age of consent by predatory adults. Recent research by Barnardo’s NI has shown that young girls in care are particularly vulnerable.”

She added:

This joint initiative with the PSNI will help us reach young people who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation at a much earlier stage. By having our worker based in the police station we will be able to take action and support our colleagues in the PSNI as soon as there are reports of any concerns around a young person indicating sexual exploitation.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that the protection of children and vulnerable adults was a core police function. He said the PSNI were pleased to announce that money seized from criminals under the Assets Recovery Incentivisation Scheme was helping to fund the initiative:

“As over 50 per cent of victims of sexual offences in 2011 were under 18 years of age, it was critically important that we reviewed the service being provided to these young people to ensure their needs were being met,” he said.

“Earlier interventions can also assist in identifying exploitative adults at an earlier stage, while reducing the number of missing episodes, which in turn affords greater protection to children,” he added.

Read: Northern Ireland to make it illegal to pay for sex>

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