Understanding Child Exploitation: Perception and Knowledge Gaps between Children, Caregivers and Support Providers
Children in the UK are experiencing an increased risk of exploitation. Statistics from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) show that the number of child victims identified in the UK increased by 45% between 2018 to 2019. COVID-19 exacerbated this issue, with increased financial hardship, thousands of children out of school and youth homelessness on the rise. This needs to stop.
This summer, we’re launching a new project with STOP THE TRAFFIK to help prevent child exploitation and increase awareness among caregivers so that parents, teachers, siblings and wider support providers have the knowledge to identify signs of exploitation and access support from specialist organisations. We will be running this in tandem with free training for schools that will equip staff to spot the signs of potential exploitation and be empowered with the correct escalation of suspicions. The project will culminate in a collaborative research report, highlighting the findings from the campaign and helping to inform national child exploitation prevention efforts.
STOP THE TRAFFIK offers a unique, intelligence-led approach to systemically disrupt human trafficking. They work by changing the environment in which traffickers operate, increasing the risk and lowering the profit to criminal networks. Their data-driven approach enables them to target, to build evidence of change and to measure impact in order to share learning. Their model of prevention has been proven as effective by external evaluation and is award-winning for its ability to innovate and meet hard to reach communities.
This project will unfold in three phases:
1. Social Media Campaign
STOP THE TRAFFIK campaigns follow an intelligence-led model, using social media to target selected audiences with hyper-local, relevant content. They work with local and national partners to develop their knowledge of specific forms of exploitation and act as frontline support providers once the campaign is live. Following the campaign, STOP THE TRAFFIK assesses their impact, including changes in knowledge and behaviour leading to prevention of trafficking, and share their learnings.
For this campaign STOP THE TRAFFIK identified two categories of caregivers which the campaign will target. One group includes caregivers (parents, foster parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) between the ages of 17-65+. The second group includes older siblings who can play an important caregiving role in a younger sibling’s life.
Alongside the campaign material, STOP THE TRAFFIK will be conducting surveys with the caregiver groups to capture their knowledge of child exploitation, what recruitment looks like, who the victims and perpetrators might be. Both the surveys and the campaign will signpost caregivers to specialist organisations offering further resources and guidance.
Overall, the campaign – launching June 2021 – is forecasted to reach more than 1.5 million caregivers in the UK with information on child exploitation indicators and the organisations that can offer support and guidance.
2. Free Training for Schools
STOP THE TRAFFIK is part of the Oasis group, which runs academies across the UK. They will offer training sessions across 50 Oasis academies to staff and teachers, Community Hub Leaders, and the wider Oasis community, including caregivers. Training will equip participants with the following:
- An introduction to the scale of the human trafficking and exploitation
- An understanding of the different definitions and types of human trafficking
- How to spot the warning signs of exploitation in their role and community
- What to do if they believe someone they know, or work with, is being exploited
At the end of the training, participants will complete an anonymous survey to capture their knowledge and perceptions on child exploitation, which will feed into the collaborative research report to be published in September.
3. Collaborative Research Report
Following the running of the targeted awareness campaign and training, STOP THE TRAFFIK will be undertaking a collaborative research piece aiming to capture perceptions and knowledge gaps between children, caregivers and support providers. This research will engage key stakeholders, including law enforcement, local authorities, health practitioners, caregivers, NGOs, community groups, legal practitioners, journalists, education professionals and Children and Safeguarding leads.
The published report will highlight the project’s findings and will be of practical utility to national child exploitation prevention efforts. The focus of this report is based on extensive preliminary research involving practitioners in the child exploitation rehabilitation sector and parent-led anti-exploitation networks which highlighted major gaps in people’s understanding of the issues, from the warning signs of exploitation to the language used to recognise different forms of exploitation.
The report will ultimately serve as an invaluable resource to be distributed among relevant stakeholders across the child exploitation prevention sector and to help inform the wider decision-making processes that aim to prevent child exploitation in the UK.
Together, we will go further and faster to end modern slavery and child exploitation.
Let’s Do This!