£2.5m pledged to support child victims of exploitation

More than £2.5m of funding has been pledged by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner in partnership with four of the region’s local authorities, to support young victims of exploitation over the next five years.

Emily Spurrell has united with Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral Councils to put together a package of funding to deliver the support service for all young people who have experienced, or are at risk of, exploitation until March 2027.

The service, which is part of the Commissioner’s package of care and support for victims of crime – Victim Care Merseyside – will be delivered by social enterprise Catch22.

The service which supports young people affected by both criminal and sexual exploitation was believed to be the first of its kind in the country when it was first commissioned in 2015.

After being reselected following a competitive tendering process, Catch22 will now receive £509,000 a year to provide support for anyone under 18 who has been affected by sexual or criminal exploitation, County Lines and trafficking.

With the funding, Catch22 will carry out comprehensive screening and assessment to identify young people who at risk of exploitation and deliver a programme of intervention and long-term support to ensure they are able to fully cope and recover and reduce any further risk. This includes one-to-one and group work.

They will also deliver training to young people, partners and professionals to raise awareness of the warning signs of exploitation and educate them on how to take action quickly to prevent it and protect a young person who is at risk.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “Keeping our young people safe is a priority for me and for our local authorities.

“This £2.5m funding package demonstrates how committed we are to improving the protection and care we provide for vulnerable young people in Merseyside, ensuring they don’t fall prey to criminals.

“By pledging to fund this service for five years, we are showing how determined we are to raise awareness of this harmful and insidious crime, prevent exploitation of all kinds and provide high-quality specialist support to any young person who has suffered at the hands of those dangerous individuals who would seek to exploit them for their own gain.”

Catch22’s Director of Young People and Families Kate Wareham said, “We’re thrilled to have been chosen to continue delivering what is a much-needed service for some of Merseyside’s most vulnerable and at risk children and young people.

“Over the last six years we’ve successfully helped hundreds of children and their families overcome the devastating effects of exploitation. We’ve also trained hundreds of professionals working with young people on how to spot the signs of exploitation and act quickly.

“We’re proud of the positive impact the service has had and the national recognition we’ve received for our commitment to multi-agency working. We thank the PCC for once again putting her trust in us to deliver – and look forward to helping more young people and their families who, tragically, fall victim to exploitation.”

Cllr Wendy Clements, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee for Wirral Council, said, “This announcement is really welcome. Over the last few years, there has been significant progress made in tackling exploitation as a result of working in partnership with the Police to commission and develop specialist services to support our vulnerable young people.

“Wirral is committed to tackling all forms of exploitation. Catch 22 services sit as a key part of Wirral’s ‘Compass’ Team, our dedicated multi agency response to these issues. By working in partnership to prevent exploitation and tackle offenders, we are making communities safer, ensuring our most vulnerable young people are protected and achieve brighter futures.”

Catch22 were re-selected following a competitive tendering process and a selection panel consisting of members of the PCC’s office and representatives from Merseyside Police and each of the partner agencies.

Bids were evaluated upon quality, cost, an interview process and references.

You can contact Catch22’s pan-Merseyside Child Exploitation Service by calling 0151 666 4897 or emailing PanMerseyside@catch-22.org.uk

If you’ve been affected by crime, for information and advice or to find an organisation to help, please visit www.victimcaremerseyside.org

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