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‘You can trust me…’ Young people going missing and at risk of, or abused through, child sexual exploitation in North Wales

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) has been a strategic priority, and a key area for practice development, for Barnardo’s for over two decades. Within Wales, Barnardo’s Cymru has worked closely with the Welsh Government since 2005 to support the development of robust policy and practice guidance to address CSE in Wales.

Established research and practice evidence demonstrates a strong correlation between children and young people going missing and risk of sexual exploitation. Over the past few years, a series of high-profile prosecutions of cases of CSE have raised public awareness of this crime. Networks of perpetrators who had been abusing children and young people over many years were uncovered in Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby, Sheffield, Manchester and Oxford, leading to an increase in activity across all sectors to improve safeguarding and disrupt perpetrators.

This research aims to improve understanding of the nature of the relationship between going missing and CSE, and to improve responses to children and young people at risk. Although this issue has been considered at a UK level, very little research into children and young people who go missing and the link between going missing and risk of CSE has been undertaken in Wales. This research was carried out in North Wales but might usefully inform practice across Wales.