Task group works to prevent sexual exploitation in Ipswich
Taxi drivers, tattoo parlours, nail bars and night clubs in Ipswich are set to get safeguarding training to help protect children and teenagers from sexual exploitation.
A task group set up by Ipswich Borough Council in August has worked to assess the measures in place across the town for young and vulnerable people.
The project has worked alongside officers from Suffolk police, Suffolk County Council and organisations such as Survivors in Transition to identify where the dangers lay, and find means of protecting those who could be at risk.
Among areas the group established more work was needed was intercepting instances of people trafficking which come through Felixstowe docks, and making sure support networks are in place for young people to report any incidents.
Ipswich borough councillor Liz Harsant said: “Our concerns, which can be quite difficult, are young and vulnerable adults, and those out of the care system.
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“We looked at migrants coming in at Felixstowe dock who come in and disappear before the authority can help them.
“The group has been very successful and other authorities are trying to join in.”
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As part of the recommendations put in place, Suffolk County Council has given talks at schools over mobile phone use and the dangers of posting images on Instagram and social media, and put in place safeguarding training for taxi drivers, tattoo parlours, nail bars and ear piercing shops.
A spokesman from Suffolk County Council said: “Suffolk Local Safeguarding Children Board is in the early stages of developing materials to help Suffolk’s taxi drivers recognise the risks and signs of potential child sexual exploitation.
“There are approximately 2,000 taxi drivers across Suffolk, who can play an important role in helping to identify potential individuals at risk and alerting the relevant agencies.”
Despite the task group having had its last official meeting, Ms Harsant has voiced her intention for work to continue, aiming to extend safeguarding training to hostels and bed and breakfasts – where many out of the care or prison systems go when they are released – and hubs for younger people such as bars and nightclubs.
Ms Harsant added: “I think one of the things I wasn’t able to do was look at how children report abuse.
“I know schools are there to listen and help but I just worry about how we would know?
“I have asked libraries, Childline, Ipswich Borough Council to display posters, and look at Jubilee Park where they are all vulnerable adults.
“We are going to have an annual report from police as to what is happening, and I personally don’t want it to end. I would like it to carry on because everyone needs to know about this.”