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Last month saw the start of a new suite of partnership projects to tackle serious violence in Norfolk by preventing the exploitation of young people by criminal gangs.
Funding for the projects was secured through a successful bid by the OPCCN supported by partners, to the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund in November, with Norfolk being awarded £700,000.
Norfolk’s PCC Lorne Green, said: “Child exploitation, gangs, drugs, knife crime – these are not exclusively ‘policing issues’ and they will not be solved through enforcement alone. We’re talking about societal problems; problems we are all concerned about and that we all have a responsibility to play our part in addressing.
“These projects highlight all that is good about partnership working – bringing together organisations from all sectors to tackle the issue from root to branch, and pooling skills, resources and expertise from across the county.
“Together we are much better placed to disrupt the activity of those who seek to exploit our young people, by building their resilience, safeguarding and showing our young people that their future can be so much brighter.
“We want to send out a message to criminals intent on targeting our young people that Norfolk is not a soft target.”
Norfolk Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable and Operation Gravity lead, Nick Davison, said: “This approach is key in protecting young people in Norfolk and preventing them from becoming involved in County Lines and wider criminal exploitation.
“Since Operation Gravity began in December 2016, officers have made more than 1,000 arrests and secured a number of lengthy jail sentences for those involved in supplying Class A drugs in Norfolk, this in turn, has helped to identify young people at risk of being exploited.
“However, we have always said that this issue cannot be tackled with enforcement alone. This project will allow police to work much more effectively with partner agencies to identify those at risk before they become involved in County Lines and provide early intervention where it is needed.
“Not only does it seek to reduce vulnerability to child criminal exploitation and associated violent crime, it will also help build long term resilience amongst children, young people and communities.”
Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, added: “County Lines gangs are exploiting, abusing and controlling our children and young people. Agencies across Norfolk are committed to working together to disrupt and prevent this criminal activity and to give victims a way out.
“By working with those at risk, ensuring that there is mentoring and support , we can also prevent young people getting groomed for this criminal activity. These projects are aimed at further building relationships and trust with young people and communities, so that collectively we can keep children and young people safe.”
The funding will be used to bring together the Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) teams to form the Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) Team. The team’s work will focus on identifying those at risk of becoming subject to exploitation, and putting in place intervention and support for individuals, families and the wider community. Over the course of a 15-month pilot, the team will work to raise awareness of the threat of child exploitation, providing training and advice to frontline professionals on recognising the signs and understanding referral processes.
Detached Youth Workers
Specialist youth workers will focus on building relationships with those vulnerable to exploitation in the Norwich area. The service, designed in partnership with Norfolk County Council will focus on engaging with young people not known to other services. The youth workers will link in with the MACE Team and Norfolk’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), to help reduce risk to young people as well as identifying need and making referrals to wider support services.
Family Support Practitioners
Family support practitioners with specialist knowledge in relation to child criminal exploitation will work alongside the MACE team. Their role will be to focus on whole family intervention, working with young people in Norwich who have been exploited and ensuring their families feel supported in keeping them safe.
St Giles Trust will bring its SOS+ project across Norfolk, delivering 120 preventative sessions to 8,600 school children across the county, with intensive 1-2-1 support for those deemed as at high risk. 40 awareness-raising sessions will be delivered to 2,100 Norfolk teachers, and 80 sessions reaching around 7,700 parents. Additional funding from the Norfolk PCC’s Hidden Victims Fund will enable this project to run for three years.
Pathways Out Programme
The programme was co-designed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, Mancroft Advice Project (MAP) and the Norfolk Youth Offending Team (YOT). It will deliver 1-2-1 mentoring to 40 young people aged 17 and under in Norwich who are identified as being vulnerable to criminal exploitation. Mentors will work to build confidence and skills in the young people, providing positive educational and work experiences and raising ambitions, helping them onto an alternative path.
Capacity Building (Third Sector Development)
This project, delivered by Momentum, aims to increase understanding and knowledge of child criminal exploitation (CCE) within the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. By providing information and training to VCSE organisations, Momentum will work to improve joint working and increase the county’s capacity to prevent CCE and support those affected.