At the end of last week a new campaign was launched by WiSE which is part of the YMCA Downslink Group that is based in Hove but which covers the whole of Sussex and into parts of Surrey. The campaign has a particular focus on Brighton and Hove but in reality this is an issue that impacts the whole of the UK. The website that relates to this campaign is here and it asks the question
Have you ever thought about how drugs arrive in and move around our city? Did you know that children are used by organised crime groups to transport, store and distribute drugs and the profits of drugs, within Brighton and Hove and across the country?
It goes on to explain that
Child Criminal exploitation is a type of abuse where children are coerced in to committing criminal acts. On the surface it may appear that children who are criminally exploited have made a freely given choice, however, among other tactics, Intimidation, violence including sexual violence, debt bondage and weapons have been used to manipulate them to commit crimes.
I am aware from my work with Sussex Police that sadly there have been a number of young people and children who have arrived into Brighton and Hove on trains carrying drugs. In many cases they have been sent from London or other settings to carry the drugs to enable the drug dealers to operate with less risk for them. There are of course also many children from within our city or in other parts of Sussex that are also being exploited in a similar way. We need to promote and applaud the WiSE Up to Exploitation as widely as possible. We can be delighted that the campaign is being presented here in the Brighton and Hove City Council website and here in the Children and Young People Now magazine. We also need to thank the group of Brighton University student volunteers that have worked with WiSE to raise awareness amongst fellow students and the wider community of child criminal exploitation.
I am very proud of WiSE and YMCA DLG which I was involved with for a period as a Trustee and I hope that their campaign will help to reduce the number of children being exploited. Many of them are people who need to be drawn into their communities in a way that will make them less vulnerable. We need to find ways to achieve that in every community, particularly in schools and in other settings were some of the most vulnerable young people can feel excluded and rejected by the people around them.