I was however particularly shocked by the release of Government figures that 2019 saw an
all-time high of 18,000 children and young people being groomed and sexually exploited in
the UK.

Furthermore, this is probably only the tip of the iceberg as many incidents go unreported
with young victims terrified of the perpetrators and of being blamed themselves for the

Equally worrying is the rise in the wider criminal exploitation of young people such as
County Lines with young boys and girls being forced into drugs operations – akin to the
treatment of young people by perpetrators in Victorian times.

As the local charity dedicated to supporting children and young people across Derbyshire
who are vulnerable to or victims of grooming and exploitation, we share the worry that
professionals and families alike must be feeling about these latest figures.

Child sexual exploitation – whether that is bribing young people to share indecent images
online or grooming them to be raped and abused – remains one of the largest forms of child
abuse in the country.

It can potentially destroy the lives of any young girl or boy – regardless of where they live,
their family situation, cultural or social background.

New court cases are reported on a daily basis with echoes of the horrific abuse uncovered
during Operation Retriever here in Derbyshire which led to the 2010 landmark case when 13
defendants were jailed in total for up to 22 years for 70 offences against a number of young

Criminal exploitation prosecutions are now becoming common place in the news headlines
and I am heartened that young people involved in drugs operations are increasingly being
recognised as victims of exploitation just as those who are forced into sexual activity.
I also agree with senior police officers who have highlighted that the reduction in youth
services has left a void between the school gate and the front door which criminals are

This is precisely why Safe and Sound has expanded operations to provide youth services for
in the city and county to ensure they are less vulnerable to exploitation by involving them in
positive activities for young people and boosting their feelings of security, self worth and

We are also looking to appoint a specialist worker to support the families of young people
who are being targeted online and directly by sexual predators in recognition that the
effects of this exploitation affect the whole family.

I would therefore appeal to everyone to be aware of the dangers to children and young
people both online and in our local communities. To find out more about the work of Safe
and Sound and how you can help, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk and follow
on social media channels.