TREE project aims to tackle the root causes of child exploitation
A major new partnership effort has been launched in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire to tackle the root causes of young people being exploited.
The TREE project – Tackling, Reducing and Ending Exploitation – will see youth and charity workers team up with police officers to conduct joint outreach work across the area.
The aim will be to engage with young people and the wider community and signpost people to support services.
The first patrol will take place in Shefford and Biggleswade on Monday (31 January), with future visits planned to Bedford and Leighton Buzzard over the coming months.
The TREE project replicates a successful approach that has been pioneered by the targeted youth service at Luton Council.
The project in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire is being led by the Bedfordshire Youth Offending Service, part of both Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils, and funded by the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU).
Kimberley Lamb, head of the VERU, said: “The TREE project epitomises the good work and approach that has become the hallmark of the VERU.
“This project is getting people out directly into communities to make a difference and engage with young people who might be impacted by things like child criminal exploitation.
“This face to face interaction is undoubtedly the best way to make an impact on a child’s life and show them that a better path and a brighter future is possible.
“Plus, our VERU Village mantra makes clear that we cannot solve these issues on our own. It takes lots of different agencies, charities and communities to protect young people, which is why I am so glad to see so much partnership support and buy in for the TREE project in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.”
Cllr Sue Clark, Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said: “We recognise that no single agency can tackle exploitation alone. Working together is key to making sure our young people are safe.
“Our Children’s Services teams will use the patrols as an opportunity to provide early intervention and support to young people who may be at risk of exploitation, and we’re really pleased to be involved in such an important project.”
Cllr Abbas Hussain, Portfolio Holder for community safety at Luton Council, said: “Our Targeted Youth Service partnered with community based organisations across the town to work together to identify and tackle the criminal exploitation of children and young people.
“As part of our TREE project our youth workers, specialist staff and police officers have been engaging with young people in conversation, signposting them to services and diverting them to positive activities operating within the town.
“The project has developed good links within the community and has opened new ways of working cohesively together with local groups as well as created a sense of community cohesion and boosted integration. By taking this community-wide approach, we hope it will assist in addressing issues of gangs exploiting our young people.”
The TREE project is one of 24 community projects to be funded by the VERU this year, with the specialist unit having invested around £300,000 into these projects this financial year.
31 January – Shefford and Biggleswade
10 February – Bedford
16 February – Leighton Buzzard
21 February – Shefford and Biggleswade
3 March – Bedford
9 March – Leighton Buzzard
14 March – Shefford and Biggleswade
24 March – Bedford
30 March – Leighton Buzzard