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Play helps identify teenagers at risk of sexual exploitation

Ten vulnerable individuals have been identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or associated risk-taking behaviour as a direct result of a powerful drama performed in Fenland schools last year.

Chelsea's choice

And one of the students has disclosed that she had potentially been a victim of online grooming.

Those are among the findings included in a report evaluating the effectiveness of the "Chelsea's Choice" play and the workshops and focus groups that followed the performances.

The play explores many sensitive issues, including healthy relationships, internet safety, grooming and drug use. It was seen by more than 1,000 students at six Fenland schools and colleges on a tour organised by the Fenland Community Safety Partnership (FCSP) last autumn.

The production was followed by several hour-long workshops, surveys of its impact on the students and a series of focus groups.

The follow-up report by the Fenland Community Safety Partnership (FCSP) and the Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) said that the overall package had proved very effective in raising young people's awareness of the issues. It had also helped enable them to identify the signs of an unhealthy relationship and risk-taking behaviours.

Councillor David Oliver, the FCSP's chairman, said: "The report is proof that the Chelsea's Choice programme is an excellent way both of alerting young people to the dangers of sexual exploitation and helping them to guard against it. It also indicates what more needs to be done on this issue."

The report said: "The responses from the surveys and focus groups suggest that young people in years 9/10 as a collective knew what CSE was but did not necessarily understand the process and/or signs and symptoms of victims of CSE.

"It was also clear from the discussion groups that although online internet safety is taught in school, the knowledge of the effects of manipulation and its consequences is limited."

The results also highlighted the need for better communication about CSE between adults and young people, the report said. "This needs to be done in a way that allows young people to make informed decisions in their lives, and not in a 'scare mongering' or derogatory manner."

The surveys, completed by 80 per cent of those who had seen the play, showed that knowledge of child sexual exploitation increased by about 50 per cent. They also identified who a child or young adult would go to for support or advice

All those involved in the focus groups remembered the performance three months down the line, with 97 per cent of students considering that it was a good way to raise awareness of the problem.

Article added 17 March, 2016