PEOPLE across the Dudley borough are reminded to be aware of the key warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The see me, hear me partnership led by West Midlands Police and councils across the West Midlands, including Dudley Council, is highlighting the signs of the hidden crime in the run up to Christmas to help people identify concerns and get help.

Anyone who sees a child or young person receiving unexplained money or gifts this Christmas should be aware this could be an indication that something is wrong. Unusual behaviour such as mood swings, skipping school, being secretive and staying out late are also all signs parents, carers, schools, professionals and young people should not ignore.

Catherine Knowles, Dudley Council's interim director of children’s services, said: “It’s important for parents and carers to look out for anything unusual as this could indicate they may be at risk of abuse.

"CSE can affect both girls and boys and being aware of the warning signs, and acting on them early, can help prevent abuse happening or escalating.

"We all have our part to play in protecting our children and young people from this horrific abuse and I would encourage people to check out our website to find out more and see what they can do to help protect children and young people.”

CSE sees perpetrators grooming their victims in person, via mobiles or online to gain their trust before emotionally, physically and sexually abusing them. It can take place in many forms - whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for payment by way of drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.

Anyone concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101 or Crimestoppers (anonymously) on 0800 555111 or in an emergency call 999.