Sex exploitation worker to join child protection battle in Oxfordshire

The Oxford Times: Police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld Police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld

A CHILD protection charity has been called in to Oxford to help fight those targeting vulnerable children for sex.

Barnardo’s is recruiting a child sex exploitation worker to help those at risk in the city and the county.

Applications closed at the end of last month, but the job description read: “It’s a huge (and hidden) issue that’s seeing vulnerable young girls and boys groomed and then abused, leaving them scarred for life.”

The role comes with a salary of between £22,589 and £29,110 and the charity worker will join the Kingfisher team at Cowley police station.

The team, which is made up of police and social workers, was set up in 2012 to identify and work with those vulnerable to abuse.

It comes after Thames Valley Police’s Operation Bullfinch was launched in 2011 to investigate an organised gang of men grooming, drugging and raping vulnerable girls living in council care. Last year, seven men were jailed for a total of 95 years following a 14-week trial at the Old Bailey.

Barnardo’s said it created the post following a meeting with Jim Leivers, the director for children, education and families at Oxfordshire County Council.

Julie Gibbard, Barnardo’s assistant director with responsibility for services in Oxfordshire, said: “Our role will be to work directly with young people and their families – as well as preventative work where we have knowledge where young people may likely become victims.”

The charity is the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the country and last year worked with 1,940 victims.

It works to identify and reach out to young people at risk, and says by building up trust its staff help to break children free of abusive and exploitative relationships. The charity also works with schools to raise awareness.

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Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Owen Morton said: “We are delighted to welcome Barnardo’s as partners in tackling child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire.

“They will bring considerable experience, as well as tried and tested resources, to the work already being done by our specialist multi-agency Kingfisher team.

“As well as undertaking direct work with individuals and groups across the county, Barnardo’s will support us in developing new ways of raising awareness with professionals and the public, and in protecting vulnerable children and their families.”

Interviews for the new role will be held shortly. Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Rhianne Pope said: “It is an exciting opportunity to work with another agency who have so much knowledge of child sex exploitation.”

Police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld also welcomed the charity’s expertise.

He said: “It is not just the investigation and stopping of it (child exploitation). It is dealing with the problems after they have been stopped and with the victims.

“I welcome Barnardo’s help a great deal.”

Last week it was revealed police had spent £3m so far on its Operation Bullfinch investigation.

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