People working night shifts are being urged to be vigilant for signs of exploitation among young people by Barnardo’s Scotland and Crimestoppers.
Barnardo’s Scotland’s ‘Nightwatch Hotline’ is a joint initiative between the two charities and Police Scotland which has been running for three years. It allows the public, and those working within the night time economy – such as taxi drivers and hoteliers - to share information anonymously as the organisations support the fight against child sexual exploitation (CSE).
As lockdown restrictions have been lifted, people are being urged to be on the lookout and report any concerns they have about activity that could be linked to young people being exploited, via the anonymous Nightwatch Hotline.
Daljeet Dagon, National Programme Manager for Child Sexual Exploitation for Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “The night time economy boasts a vast, vibrant and diverse workforce from bar staff and hoteliers to bus drivers and the emergency departments in hospitals. The staff who work within these different industries can offer protection to the community by recognising the signs of CSE and simply passing on any suspicions they have through our Nightwatch Hotline.
“The hotline provides a safe and secure means for members of the public as well as those working in the evening and within the night time economy to share any worries or concerns they have. This line also provides those working with children and the community a means to report issues that they may feel they cannot raise directly within their own employer.”
Barnardo’s Scotland previously identified barriers in relation to a safe and secure way in which information regarding any worries or concerns relating to the possible sexual exploitation and abuse of children could be reported. Workers participating in training around exploitation had already told the charity that they ‘would not’ routinely contact the police about such concerns.
The children’s charity approached Crimestoppers UK to assist them in developing a robust reporting mechanism whereby they could provide some of the key industries that come into contact with children and young people an opportunity to report incidents or concerns around CSE as well as educating those industries and the public on the signs to look out for.
Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, Head of Public Protection, Police Scotland, said: "Night-time workers are in a key position to notice when something doesn’t seem right. We do understand some people might be reluctant to report to the police and involve themselves. Nightwatch gives them the opportunity to make that call and report their concerns anonymously. By doing this they could help stop a child becoming a victim or help get them the support they might desperately need.”
Callers can inform the Nightwatch Hotline about any of the following:
Angela Parker, Scotland Manager for the charity Crimestoppers, said: “Our cast-iron promise of anonymity to everyone who contacts us is key to encouraging people who have suspicions to do the right thing and tell us what they know. The protection of children and young people is critical, and as we ease out of lockdown with the economy opening up, there will sadly be more opportunities for the young to be exploited.
“If you suspect exploitation or abuse, then please don’t stay silent. Contact our charity as it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to looking after children and young people.”
People concerned about exploitation of a young person should call the Barnardo’s Scotland’s Nightwatch Hotline on 0800 389 0131.