Wednesday 18 March is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day and the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings will be spending it visiting various events in South Yorkshire.
Dr Billings is no stranger to the issues of Child Sexual Exploitation. He was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner on 3 November 2014 following the bi-election brought on by the resignation of his predecessor after the publication of the Alexis Jay Report.
His top priority is protecting vulnerable people and he is currently doing as much as he can to tackle child sexual exploitation and raise awareness of the signs.
He said: “The last four months have been a turbulent time for South Yorkshire Police. There have been the on-going Hillsborough inquests, an investigation into the Miners’ Strike at Orgreave and issues arising out of child sexual exploitation – first in Rotherham and now in Sheffield.
“I have been doing a number of things. First I have met with a small panel of victims, survivors and families. I have listened to their stories and sought to learn from their experiences. I use this group as a way of helping me to advise South Yorkshire Police on how to improve their investigations and help those at risk.
“I have committed 62 additional officers to strengthen the Public Protection Unit which deals with investigating child sexual exploitation. I have asked the Chief Constable to ensure that all officers – not just those in the Unit – are trained in dealing with vulnerable people at risk of abuse.
“What we are beginning to recognise, however, is that this is not just a Rotherham, Sheffield or South Yorkshire problem but something that is nation-wide. I believe that in this respect South Yorkshire may be more alive to the issues than some other places. We have left a place of denial and are more willing to uncover and face up to the truth. This is the first and necessary step in turning a corner.
“No child deserves to grow up in a society where this scale of abuse is happening. We must all take responsibility and work together to ensure young people understand the risks and those being abused understand that this is wrong and should not be happening to them.
“Last week I called for an inspection of South Yorkshire Police following the latest revelations about the extent of child sexual exploitation in Sheffield. Since this announcement, people have come forward to speak to me. I very much welcome this, because the slow drip-feeding of information into the public domain by those who once worked for the Force, makes it very difficult to form a realistic assessment of what has happened. This is also deeply disturbing for those who are working now to tackle child abuse.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner I urge any past employee to come forward now. I assure them that they will be listened to and taken seriously.
“Similarly, I urge any victims or witnesses to get in touch with the police, or, if they are nervous about doing that, to contact my office. They will be treated with respect and sensitivity.”