The recent lifting of reporting restrictions on a series of trials for sexual abuse, child prostitution and trafficking in Telford have highlighted the vulnerability of young people in a number of ways for which church members, neighbours and schools should be alert.
Children are vulnerable to all sorts of sexual and mental abuse says the Rt Revd Geoff Annas, Bishop of Stafford and chair of the Diocese of Lichfields Safeguarding team.
I spent eight years as a social worker and never came across the degree of manipulation and abuse that this and other recent cases have highlighted. It is truly horrific and we continue to pray for survivors in all our communities.
The police investigation into abuse and trafficking in Telford is at the heart of a Channel 4 documentary that will be shown on Thursday night.
This particular case has no direct links to any particular congregation, but every victim and perpetrator has neighbours, is part of our community said Bishop Geoff. Their grooming often begins in the open, on the streets, in our town centres or housing estates, near our churches and schools. It shows that it can happen anywhere.
It is our duty as citizens to report any concern, wherever it takes place: not just in church, but in youth organisations, outside school or on the street. We are always striving to improve our own Safeguarding Procedures in our churches as we review our own experience and learn from others. Because there is never any room for complacency, we will continue to do so.
Often the signs are there that something is amiss, but people are reluctant to report small concerns thinking they might have jumped to the wrong conclusion. People must act on that gut feeling that something isnt quite right when children may be at risk. Reporting each little sign may be just enough to stop a bigger crime being committed said Bishop Geoff.
Each minor concern is a part of a jigsaw. If people are reluctant to contact the police or social services, they should report any concern to their churchs Safeguarding Coordinator. They are key in collating information that may lead to seeing a bigger picture. But the police and social services are the first point of contact if someone is in immediate danger.
Anyone with concerns linked to children in a Church of England church in the Diocese of Lichfield (northern Shropshire including Shrewsbury and Telford, Staffordshire and the Black Country) is urged to contact the parish Safeguarding Coordinator or the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Revd Charmian Beech on 01630 685491 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other concerns should be report to the local councils Childrens Department, the police (on 101 or 999 as appropriate) or the NSPCC.
Children and young people can also contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via http://www.childline.org.uk