A national centre of expertise to improve how police respond to child sexual exploitation will be set up at the University of Bedfordshire.
The College of Policing has announced today (Thursday) that the university has been successful in its bid for more than £500,000 in funding to establish a hub that will focus on the how these horrendous crimes are tackled by police.
Joint director of The International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking at the university Dr Helen Beckett said: “This is a critical time to invest in this issue with serious examples of failures to safeguard young people embedded in the public consciousness and with child sexual exploitation now identified as the sixth national strategic threat.”
The new centre will aim to enhance police response to young people affected by child sexual exploitation, other forms of child sexual abuse and related crimes.
It will allow partnership working at both national and regional levels between the police and academia.
Dr Beckett said: “This is in response to the repeated shortcomings in safeguarding young people and a recognised need to identify and build on existing police strengths and develop alternative policing and engagement techniques that are appropriate for young people and the differing contexts within which they experience child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse.”
The university will work with Chief Constable Simon Bailey who is the national policing lead for child protection and abuse investigation, and a network of regional police co-ordinators, along with leading children’s charities and Public Health England, to improve both understanding and practice of this issue on the frontline.
Chief Constable Bailey said: “Tackling the threat of child sexual exploitation is one of the police service’s greatest challenges and I am delighted that the University of Bedfordshire has been successful is securing funding from the Police Knowledge Fund.
“The creation of a hub of excellence will build on our already well established academic partnership and undoubtedly help to improve our response to the threat of child sexual exploitation.”
The university’s international centre is already renowned for its research, teaching and learning on child sexual exploitation, child protection and related work.
It was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize - the highest form of national recognition for universities in the UK - for its pioneering applied research in child sexual exploitation, influencing new safeguarding policy and practice.
University vice chancellor Bill Rammell said: “This news confirms the university as the leading research institution for child sexual exploitation across the country and offers opportunity for future developments on a scale we have not yet achieved in the field.
“We welcome this opportunity to work with the police and other partner agencies to enhance the evidence base for safeguarding children from this horrendous crime.”