Hillingdon Council has been nominated for an award for its innovative approach to protecting children and young people from exploitation.
The award for Hillingdon Council comes ahead of National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Thursday 18 March.
The council’s AXIS project has been shortlisted for ‘The Biggest Impact Award’ at the National Children and Young People’s Awards, which celebrates excellence in care for children, young people and families.
The award commends an outstanding team that has promoted positive change for vulnerable families.
From October 2017 to January 2021, 314 local children were supported by the AXIS project, which uses advanced technology to gather information from the local community to identify hard-to-reach children who may be exposed to exploitation.
Of those children, 35 have engaged and completed intervention work specifically on child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Emily Fletcher, Hillingdon Council’s AXIS Youth Prevention Officer (pictured), said: “The AXIS team is thrilled to be nominated for an award and we hope it encourages other authorities to embed some of our practices. We support children and young people at the earliest stage, with the aim to prevent escalation into social care or the council’s youth justice service.
“The triangulation of information, intelligence and early intervention is what makes the project so unique and I’ve seen first-hand how it impacts children to make positive changes to their lives.
“During lockdown periods, we witnessed a slight increase in online grooming due to more children being targeted at home on the internet and social media.
“We work with victims of CSE and look at how their information on social media can identify them and make them vulnerable to online grooming.
“In one case, a young person realised she had disclosed her age, school, where she lived and all of her friends, and was connected to more than 100 people she didn’t know.
“After cleansing her profile and pictures on social media, she stopped getting messages for pictures and requests to meet up from unknown people.”
Cllr Jane Palmer, Hillingdon Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “We’re delighted that the council’s AXIS project has deservedly been shortlisted for an award, and it’s important that we continue to introduce innovative ways of identifying children at risk of exploitation.
“National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day is an opportunity for residents to learn how to recognise the signs of exploitation and to help protect children from harm.”
If you suspect that a child or young person is at risk of exploitation, call the police on 101 or Hillingdon’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub on 01895 556644. If a child is at immediate risk of harm or danger call 999.