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University and charity launch report on Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day

Teenage runaways are at great risk of sexual exploitation in North Wales, reveals new research.

Barnardo's Cymru has launched a report alongside Wrexham Glyndwr University to mark Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day held today.

The research confirms the link between running away and going missing and the risk of sexual exploitation for children and young people in North Wales.

Dr Caroline Hughes, senior lecturer in Criminal and Youth Justice at Wrexham Glyndwr University, said: “Glyndwr has welcomed conducting this research in partnership with Barnardo’s Cymru. It is an opportunity for research to inform practice and we value partnership working with key stakeholders.

“The research was important because of the evidence showing a strong correlation between children and young people going missing and risk of sexual exploitation.

“Therefore the research aimed to improve our understanding of the nature of this relationship and importantly to improve responses to children and young people at risk.

“This research was undertaken in North Wales and therefore helps us to understand the specific issues and appropriate responses in this area. The findings might be useful in informing policy and practice across Wales.”

Data collected from across Wales for 2010 to 2015 finds that 80 per cent of children assessed as at significant risk of CSE had periods of going missing overnight or longer.

Barnardo's director Yvonne Rodgers said: “This evidence underlines how valuable it is for young people to have safe, consistent relationships with trusted adults. 

“Young people become emotionally isolated and vulnerable when their relationships with responsible adults break down.

“Stories of young people who run away paint a bleak picture of the realities facing them and their vulnerability means that they can be targeted by dangerous adults who manipulate and abuse them.” 

The research, funded by Barnardo’s Cymru, claims children and young people at significant risk of sexual exploitation are more likely to have experienced trauma and abuse in childhood, to struggle at school, have low self -esteem and poor mental health. 

Menna Thomas, senior research and policy officer at Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “Barnardo’s Cymru was delighted to commission and secure the partnership of Wrexham Glyndwr University in creating this report. 

“We have worked previously with them on homelessness in Wrexham and their involvement has been crucial in identifying the experiences of going missing and child sexual exploitation in North Wales.”

CSE services work with North Wales police when a child goes missing from the region. There are three missing/CSE multi-agency strategic task groups in place, covering all six counties in North Wales.