Help to spot signs of grooming and controlling behaviour is on offer to parents, carers and friends of adults, children and the whole community in Solihull, in the shape of the #Saysomethingifyouseesomethingsolihull campaign.
The aim is to raise awareness of the hidden controlling behaviour that can affect lives – and to show victims there is a way out.
Solihull is at the forefront of work to combat All Age Exploitation, because it is recognised here that exploitation can happen to anyone, young or old, and it is the most vulnerable who are targeted and taken advantage of.
Exploitation is a form of abuse where someone is groomed, then forced or made to do things for the benefit of others.
Solihull’s All-Age Exploitation Reduction Strategy is a partnership of borough Council, Police and community leaders, designed to protect children, young people and adults at risk from this kind of manipulation by others.
This campaign is about the commitment to getting the message out that everyone must work together and be vigilant to protect people from being harmed.
It is a first in taking an ‘all age’ approach to this work.
Council Leader Councillor Ian Courts said he hoped all local people would take the opportunity to inform themselves of the dangers - and learn how they can be part of the solution.
He said: “We want to encourage everyone to realise this is our problem as a society and, by working together, we can all play a positive role in protecting those at risk, whether children or adults.
“Exploitation can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, ability, or culture – but there are things we can all do to help keep each other safe.
“We need to raise public awareness of this problem and ensure both victims and friends and relatives know where to go for help and support.”
A series of posters has been created – anyone can download or display them – explaining what exploitation is and what to do if we think someone may be being used in this way:
The posters include information on what to look out for and a local telephone number to report concerns and seek support.
Cllr Courts said: “If you recognise signs that someone you know may be in this situation, please contact the helpline - or in an emergency call the police.
“It is often the most vulnerable who are targeted and it needs everyone to work together and be vigilant to help prevent people being harmed.
“If you are a parent or a carer and would like to raise this subject with your child, a young person, a friend or relative or someone you care for, there is also a short film to help people think about what makes a good friend.
“Hopefully that will encourage them to talk to you about their friendships and there is a leaflet with further information about grooming, to help you pick up on any early indicators that something may be wrong.
“The earlier we can spot the signs and intervene the better, so please do contact the helpline if you are at all worried.”
The posters have a QR code, which, if scanned with a smartphone camera, will take people to a webpage on the joint Solihull Safeguarding Adults Board and Local Safeguarding Children Partnership website with further information and resources about exploitation:
Cllr Courts, Council Chief Executive Nick Page and West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Ian Parnell also recently wrote to local businesses, highlighting the dangers and appealing for them to get involved.
Cllr Courts explained: “This is an important priority for us and recently our prevention work has focused on reaching into sectors with specific insight and access to vulnerable groups - individuals and businesses who can be watchful eyes and ears on the ground in the community.
“If people in these sectors are engaged and equipped to spot warning signs and know how to act on and highlight their concerns, that means earlier intervention and ultimately better protection for potential victims.”
Target groups included those involved in the night-time economy – fast food, bars and cafes, pubs and clubs, hotels and B&Bs, visitor attractions like skating rinks, festivals, circus, parks and open spaces, shopping centres, town centres, and events for teenagers.
Public services staff are another very important sector - refuse collectors, street cleansers, litter pickers, grounds maintenance, highways operatives, along with public transport and taxi and private hire firms.
Vigilance and understanding are key to this campaign, which aims to empower every one of us to play our part in protecting the most vulnerable in our community.