Young People At Risk

Our aim:

To make Portsmouth a place where young people can grow up in a healthy and safe environment, where they all have every opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Why this is a priority

Research shows that chronic traumatic stress in early life affects brain development, and also impacts on the nervous, hormonal and immunological system. This can lead to a higher state of alertness to potential danger and put a strain on a persons body, leading to an increased risk of premature ill-health. This heightened emotional state may also lead to anxiety or other mental health conditions or make it difficult to concentrate, leading to poor educational attainment.

Where children witness or experience violence in their household, these behaviours can be normalised and increase the likelihood of them either perpetrating or being the victim of violence themselves in adulthood.

The exploitation of children is a force priority and work with partners happens every day to keep young people in Portsmouth safer.

What we know:

Experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) can leave an individual with low self esteem and the propensity for behaviours offering short term relief at the expense of longer-term health, such as smoking, substance misuse, poor diet and early or risky sexual activity. These patterns of behaviour are often carried through to successive generation, making the cycle hard to break. It is therefore important to act early when these risk factors are identified.

ACEs include:

      • suffering physical, verbal or sexual abuse, and physical or emotional neglect as well as those that affect the environment in which a child grows up (including parental separation, domestic violence, mental illness, alcohol abuse, drug use or incarceration).

Almost all Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) locally is thought to be drug-related and the number of drug networks linked to CCE more than doubled in 2022 compared with the previous year. We know that boys are overwhelmingly more likely to be at risk of CCE than girls.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse where a child or young person  is exploited and given things like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection in exchange for performing sexual activities. There were 95 children and young people flagged as a risk of CSE in 2022/23 and the level of identified children at risk of CSE remained fairly stable over the last five years.

Girls are more likely to be at risk of CSE, although the number of young people known to be at risk has remained relatively stable over the last five years.

The MET team have reported that those at risk of CCE and CSE are generally over 14 years of age, but there are children at risk who are significantly younger, and they are receiving more referrals from primary schools.

Portsmouth’s young people are the future of the city and we will continue to focus on early intervention and protection for young people and their families. We passionately believe that all children deserve the best start in life and we will work tirelessly to ensure that Portsmouth Children have access to opportunity and expectations are high for them.

What we will prioritise for the next two years: