Voices Mean Choices, a partnership between East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Barnardo's, is developing training and youth and community support to help ensure that all children are safer sooner from exploitation.

The two-and-a-half-year Voices Mean Choices partnership is working to co-create a system that identifies child abuse and exploitation earlier, and recognises the child and their family's needs and responds to meet those needs.

Councillor Victoria Aitken, cabinet member for children, families and education said: "Our vision is that all children are safer sooner by identifying exploitation earlier.

"Over the first year of the project, a huge amount of research and engagement with children, parents, schools, health, Police, fire service, the voluntary sector and other partners has taken place to help us to co-design support and services.

"Working together with a range of people means we gain different experiences and perspectives, including experiences from different cultures and under-represented groups such as LGBTQ+ and children with special educational needs. The voice of children and families provides valuable lived experience, and these experiences will influence the system supporting children for years to come."

The project has engaged with over 160 professionals including 67 education professionals and engaged with 42 children and 13 parents and carers who have experience of exploitation and accessing services.

Rachael Dale, national programme development manager for child sexual abuse and exploitation at Barnardo's, said: "Through our research a recurring theme that young people have spoken about is that they want friendly faces and safe spaces. This is a key focus as we develop our work."

Two concepts are now being taken forward - a youth and community support element to provide safe spaces and early identification for young people in communities, branded Our Place. Secondly, development of training to raise awareness about exploitation, warning signs and indicators, along with current themes, trends and risk factors.

Find out more about Voices Mean Choices and partnership work to safeguard children and young people: 

If you have any concerns about a child or young person get in touch with the Safeguarding and Partnership Hub (SaPH) on 01482 395500.