In March, Hounslow LBC released a special eight-page edition of our residents’ magazine Hounslow Matters, which focused entirely on the issue of child sexual exploitation.
- Project: Prevent child sexual exploitation
- Objectives: To raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, promoting increased reporting
- Timescale: Six months
- Cost to authority: £5,000
- Number of staff working on project: Four
- Outcomes: Two young people already receiving help
- Officer contact details: Jacqui McShannon
Child sexual exploitation isn’t a highly reported crime in our borough, and we wanted to highlight the warning signs to enable community action and safeguard vulnerable children.
We decided to produce the special edition as a way of reaching the whole population directly, as it is distributed to more than 100,000 households. Hounslow Matters is a popular and trusted source of information; in our most recent residents’ survey, 33% cited it as their preferred way to find out information on council services.
The content of the magazine was developed by the communications team, working closely with the children’s safeguarding service and the charity Barnardo’s. It included a real-life case study to help young people to recognise the signs of being abused, and tell them where to go for advice. It’s important that people are able to recognise exploitation in its early stages and know where to go for help, especially the families or friends of those being exploited.
We held a joint launch day with the Metropolitan Police’s initiative Operation Makesafe and scheduled the distribution of the magazine to begin at the same time. An image from Operation Makesafe materials featured on the magazine’s front cover, to tie in with the awareness raising work being carried out by the police with local businesses such as hotels and pubs.
We’ve created a new post within the council of exploitation and vulnerabilities co-ordinator, who is working with our local police to deliver training on child sexual exploitation awareness to Hounslow’s business community. The co-ordinator brings copies of the magazine to events, encouraging business owners and staff to display them in their premises and to use them to start conversations about child sexual exploitation issues with their colleagues.
Within weeks of the magazine hitting the streets, we saw a direct result. A worker in a local hotel called the police to report suspicious behaviour. This led to two victims of exploitation being identified to our multi-agency sexual exploitation (MASE) panel, and they are now receiving support to help them to break ties with their abusers.
Following the magazine’s success, we’re working with young people and parents or carers to develop a poster and digital awareness campaign.
Jacqui McShannon, assistant director for children’s safeguarding and specialist services, Hounslow LBC