SOUTHEND has been praised for its unique work to crack down on criminal exploitation of children and teenagers.

A study has been carried out by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, calling on the government to provide more resources for safeguarding partners to protect young people affected by or at risk of criminal exploitation – particularly children and teenagers who are being coerced into knife crime and drug trafficking by criminal gangs.

In the report is entitled “It Was Hard to Escape” and is the organisation’s first national review, Southend was one of the towns that was visited.

The report looked at the lives of 21 teenagers from 17 areas across the country to understand if the services designed to keep young people safe from criminal exploitation are working.

The study also visited areas which are developing innovative solutions, and found that Southend was one of them.

Councillor Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “Here in Southend, we work collaboratively with internal and external partners, including Essex Police, to prevent vulnerable young people being drawn into the gang violence associated with county lines drug trafficking.

“Our teams work vigorously to provide support to those at risk, and we have run successful social media campaigns to share the message.

“We focused the campaign on three aspects – the children at risk, advising them that the lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as first made out, the parents, so that they could see the signs of potential drug gang involvement, and also friends.

“We will continue to do all we can to protect our young people, and we are pleased to hear that our work has been recognised in this report.”

The report emphasised the need for those working with children to recognise the signs of a critical moment, from school exclusions to arrests or injury.

Southend was noted for the adolescent intervention team, which offers an 8am-11pm, seven-days-a-week service, with staff members able to flex their hours according to the needs of the children they work with.

The team carrying out the study believe that some of the models used in Southend could be replicated across the country.

The independent panel of experts reviews serious child safeguarding incidents – when children have died or suffered serious harm – to learn how the system can improve its response.