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Veru in view

Good morning everyone and thank you for taking the time to read this month’s VERU in View. This is my first newsletter since taking on the role as head of the unit and I want to thank everyone who has been in touch with congratulations and offers of support.

Kimberley remains very much involved in the VERU and our work moving forward, while also taking on a hugely important role leading work around the national police response to violence against women and girls. The rest of the unit remains unchanged and we have brought in some new staff and services in recent weeks to further improve our offer, more details of which are included below.

Tomorrow (Friday) is national child exploitation awareness day. While so many of us do brilliant work every day to safeguard children in Bedfordshire, this day should sharpen our focus on these issues and encourage us all to go out and spread the word about our work among our communities. The VERU is supporting the #EndChildExploitation campaign over the next fortnight, which is raising awareness of some emerging issues as well as brilliant products and services for young people. A breakdown of the campaign is included below, but it all looks fantastic so please do read the attached partner pack and get involved with the campaign however you can.

I particularly want to highlight a webinar with Sara Rowbotham MBE, who will be talking professionals through the brand new Is This Ok? app which is launching in Bedfordshire. Sara is best known for her incredible efforts in exposing the grooming, sexual assault, and trafficking of potentially thousands of young girls in Rochdale in 2012, and this week collected her MBE. We all at the VERU want to congratulate her for this achievement and look forward to working with her more in the coming weeks – more details about the app are included below, and you can book onto next week’s webinar through Eventbrite.

I am sure everyone is interested in the funding situation around the VERU moving forward, with our grant funding only running until the end of this month. While we cannot say too much at this stage, I hope that we will be able to give people good news over the next few days!

In the meantime, we have rolled out some exciting partnership projects, the heartbeat of what the VERU does. We are working closely with the fantastic Link to Change charity, which has taken on a number of school inputs for us over the past few weeks. It is great to have this coordinated approach to the different work and inputs going on in schools, with our Youth Intervention Specialist team also doing inputs around girls and gangs at Chalk Hills Academy in Luton this month.

More detail of this work is included below and as always, please do visit our VERU Education pages to see our full offer. Out YIS team and Link to Change are more than happy to come into schools, colleges and alternative provisions to deliver talks, while we also have a comprehensive set of lesson plans that education establishments can deliver themselves. This month has also seen the brilliant Out There production by Next Generation Youth Theatre delivered in schools across Luton, more details of which are included below.

Another of our community projects, the TREE project, continues to go from strength to strength. This brilliant concept which started in Luton is now being funded by the VERU to run in Bedford and Central Bedfordshire, and I am really pleased to announce that we have agreed to fund the continuation of the TREE project across all three local authorities for the next few months. This partnership approach, with different agencies working together and getting directly out into our communities, is the hallmark of the VERU’s philosophy and it will be brilliant to see this work continue into the summer months.

Another exciting announcement is the return of a familiar face to us here in Bedfordshire. Slavica Tobdzic, the former exploitation and missing coordinator for children’s services at Central Bedfordshire Council, will be joining the VERU on a part-time basis specifically to support our work on the Violence and Exploitation strategic response and other VERU documentation. Everyone who knows Slav will know about her work, passion, professionalism and dedication as a social worker and I am delighted that she has joined the team.

Thank you everyone for your ongoing support.

Lisa Robinson

VERU Manager

#EndChildExploitation campaign


Tackling county lines. It’s everyone’s business.

That will be the mantra for the next fortnight, as lots of different agencies in Bedfordshire shine a light on county lines and the exploitation of children.

Today (18 March) is National Child Exploitation Awareness Day. On this date police here in Bedfordshire and nationally will be publicising results from the latest county lines intensification week, where officers have disrupted groups involved in county lines drug dealing.

This will kick off a whole host of awareness raising activities.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s public health team and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) have worked together on a cannabis edibles campaign, with different elements targeted at professionals, parents and young people.

We will be doing work in schools with students, staff and parents, as well as continuing with things like the TREE project.

The VERU will also be promoting two apps for young people which can help those with concerns about being exploited. Other activity includes webinars for professionals, media interviews and a public webinar on Facebook.

We need your help.

The attached partner pack contains resources and key messages to help amplify the campaign and we would greatly appreciate your support. Please share, print, hand out and display the content and messages.

The campaign schedule with links to all the campaign materials is below, but please read the attached partner pack for further information.

Friday 18 March

National child exploitation awareness day #CEADay22

Publication of results from police county lines intensification week

Saturday 19 March

VERU-supported event for parents at Chalk Hills Academy, Luton – 10am-12noon

Tuesday 22 March

Launch of Central Beds and ERSOU cannabis edibles campaign

Webinar for professionals with Sara Rowbotham MBE for Is This Ok? App – 1pm-2.30pm

Thursday 24 March

Launch comms for the Is This Ok? App by charities Missing People and Childline, as well as the Tap Out app by Mary Seacole and Luton Youth Offending Service

Webinar for professionals for cannabis edibles – 4pm-5pm

Tuesday 29 March

Facebook Live webinar featuring the different elements of the campaign – 7pm-8pm

Cannabis edibles

Edibles are foods containing cannabis. These foods can be homemade, such as brownies, cakes or bought items such as sweets, chocolate or gummies. Edibles have also been seen in drink format and is known as THC Lean.

Intelligence suggests that bought items are becoming more popular and can often go “undetected” as the packaging closely mirrors well-known brands such as Haribo or Nerds. The packaging of edibles deliberately targets young people and can present a risk of others consuming the items without knowing that they contain drugs.

They are illegal and anyone in possession of them risks arrest and prosecution under the Misuse of Drugs Act. They are also dangerous and can be stronger than many other cannabis products. We are concerned about the growing link between county drugs lines and cannabis edibles.

Children are not only being targeted as a new market, but are also being enticed with seemingly legal confectionary as a means of recruiting them into their ranks as couriers and dealers, who have no previous record and due to their age are more likely to go under the radar.

While the edibles may appear safe or fun, children may soon find themselves being exploited by the group, with the gangs using a range of grooming techniques to control the children and get them to carry out a wide criminal activity on their behalf.

Wand to find out more?

Is This Ok? app


‘Is This OK?’ is a free, confidential and anonymous, digital gateway for young people aged between 13-18 at risk of, or currently experiencing, sexual or criminal exploitation and/or abuse. It uses chatbot technology as well as professionals to engage with young people online and direct them to the best place for support.

It has been funded by BBC Children in Need, and delivered in partnership by Missing People and NSPCC/Childline. The service has now launched in Bedfordshire and signposts to local support services, such as the VERU and Link to Change.

Want to find out more?

Tap Out app

Developed by Mary Seacole Housing Association, TapOut is an interactive app for young people. Follow three characters as they navigate real-life decisions and issues including knife crime, drug use and criminal exploitation.

Want to find out more?

Out There schools production


A theatre production showing the harsh reality of county lines and child criminal exploitation has been delivered in Luton schools.

‘Out There’, written by the founder of local theatre company Next Generation Youth Theatre (NGYT), was performed in nine schools in Luton. The play aimed to highlight the dark and dangerous side of county lines activity, where young people are groomed into transporting illegal substances and other items across the country.

We have had some fantastic feedback from schools and students about this and we look forward to working with NGYT closely again in the future!

More information about the production is available online as well as on our social media channels – give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you haven’t already 😊

National Working Group update


The NWG will be using #CEADay22 to raise awareness that safeguarding is everyone’s business. Check out and share this Sway newsletter for more information and how to get involved.



Our colleagues from Gangsline provide us with invaluable national insight and context in our YIS team.

Gangsline has been doing a lot of work in the world of TV and film recently. They were asked by the writers and producers of The Tower and Screw to consult and contribute to the writing of both programmes, while it has been involved in another docudrama coming out later this year and another film for TV called Gallowstree Lane next year

Sheldon Thomas said: “We are using docudramas/films for TV to get across messages that sometimes are hard to get across working in central and local government.”

Knife crime project


Thank you to everyone who attended the initial meeting of our knife crime project in February – we are really excited to see how this project develops over the coming months! Working groups will be set up this month but for more information or to get involved please email us.

Key reminders

Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit

Email – VERU @bedfordshire.pnn.police.u


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