Merton Council has said it is looking to fight child exploitation.

On National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day earlier this week, police officers, teachers and staff from other organisations around Merton attended a council-hosted event in an effort to raise awareness about the issue.

The council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Kelly Braund said: “Our event was held as part of our ongoing commitment to fight child exploitation and do everything we can to support victims and work with their families.

"The well-being and safety of all children in Merton is paramount.

“It is vital that we raise awareness of the issues around all forms of child exploitation and promote knowledge of the signs which indicate a young person is being harmed, as well as challenge the victim-blaming assumptions and language that reinforce messages from perpetrators around shame and guilt.

"Victims of exploitation can be both girls and boys from all backgrounds and the signs can sometimes be hard to recognise.”

The campaign, to raise awareness of the criminal as well as the sexual exploitation of children, aims to create a zero tolerance approach to adults developing inappropriate relationships with young people.

“We really want to encourage everyone in the community to take responsibility and help keep our young people safe from harm," Ms Braund added.

"This is why we are backing the call for this National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day for everyone ‘to think, spot and speak out’ to end the devastating harm exploitation has on young lives.”

“Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent all forms of child exploitation in Merton.”

If you have a concern around child exploitation or the welfare of a child call Merton’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8545 4226 or 020 8545 4227 (Out of hours: 020 8770 5000).

Anyone who suspects a child is at immediate harm from sexual or criminal exploitation should call the Met police on 999.