New College of Policing centre at Bedfordshire

National centre of expertise to improve police response to child sexual exploitation to be established at the University of Bedfordshire

The College of Policing announced the University has been successful in a bid for over £500,000 from the Police Knowledge Fund to establish a hub of expertise on child-centred police responses to young people at risk of or experiencing child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Dr Helen Beckett, Joint Director, The International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking at the University said: “We welcome this opportunity to work further with the police and to link our world leading research into CSE to the practice taking place out in the field. This is a critical time to invest in this issue with serious examples of failures to safeguard young people embedded in the public consciousness and with CSE now identified as the sixth national strategic threat.”

The establishment of a centre of expertise will allow sustainable collaborative working, at both national and regional levels, between the police and academia. It will seek to ensure there will be a research-informed, enhanced police response to young people affected by CSE, other forms of child sexual abuse (CSA) and related vulnerabilities.

Dr Beckett continued: “This is in response to the repeated shortcomings in safeguarding young people and a recognised need to identify and build on existing police strengths and develop alternative policing and engagement techniques that are appropriate for young people and the differing contexts within which they experience CSE/CSA.”

The University will work with the National Policing Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation, and a network of regional police coordinators, as well as leading children’s charities and Public Health England, to improve both understanding and practice of this issue on the frontline. 

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Policing Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation said: “Tackling the threat of child sexual exploitation is one of the police service greatest challenges and I am delighted that the University of Bedfordshire has been successful is securing funding from the Police Knowledge Fund.

“The creation of a hub of excellence will build on our already well established academic partnership and undoubtedly help to improve our response to the threat of CSE.”

The University’s International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking is renowned for its research, teaching and learning on child sexual exploitation, child protection and related work. The University was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize, the highest form of national recognition for universities in the UK, for its pioneering applied research in child sexual exploitation (CSE), influencing new safeguarding policy and practice.

Bill Rammell Vice Chancellor of Bedfordshire University said: “This news confirms the university as the leading research institution for CSE across the country and offers opportunity for future developments on a scale we have not yet achieved in the field. We welcome this opportunity to work with the police and other partner agencies to enhance the evidence base for safeguarding children from this horrendous crime.”

The College of Policing, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Home Office launched the £10m Police Knowledge Fund earlier this year to encourage collaboration between academia and police forces and to increase evidence-based knowledge, skills and problem solving approaches within policing.


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