Exploitation in Barking and Dagenham

Our Police Liaison Officer has been amazingly supportive, so it is hard to identify one case study to share with you, as we have so many. One that springs to mind is a series of incidents that happened last year in our SEN provision. We became concerned that an adult learner who had an offending history was encouraging younger SEN learners to put themselves in risky situations and possibly exploiting them. This led to a series of safeguarding incidents involving 5 or 6 other learners, where learners regularly went missing or reported being threatened.

Our police liaison officer provided support and advice, and spoke to parents and carers to give advice on what they could do to keep their young people safe outside of college and online. The adult learner was excluded from the college, but continued to make contact with our learners online and loiter on the street outside the entrance.

Our police liaison officer managed to obtain an order, so that he was no longer able to hang around on our street, and this limited the contact he could have with our learners and made them safer.

Ultimately, this adult's behaviour led to him receiving a custodial sentence, yet our SEN learners were still talking about him as a friend and looking up to him. They did not seem to appreciate that he was dangerous and not actually a friend. Our police liaison officer kindly delivered a presentation on exploitation to our SEN learners, and put a lot of effort into making sure it was accessible and easy to understand.

This really had an impact for our learners - they took the information a lot more seriously, because it was being delivered by a police officer. This group of learners are now far more aware of the dangers of gangs and criminal exploitation, and there have been no more missing episodes.


Steven Sweeney BSc (Hons), MSc

Metropolitan Police Service, Frontline Policing Delivery Unit, Youth Policy Team