In this interview with Sheila Taylor MBE, the CEO of NWG Network, we discuss how Project CESIUM supports a better understanding of risks and develops early intervention strategies to combat child exploitation (CE).
What is NWG?
The NWG is a charitable exploitation organisation that is working in partnership with Trilateral Research and Lincolnshire Police to advance risk assessment practices in public and private sector organisations by applying machine learning techniques to the analysis of big data to prevent and combat children exploitation.
The NWG Network formed as a UK network of over 14,500 practitioners, disseminates information down through their services, hosts over 1600 resources and offers practitioners guidance and support to those working on the issue of exploitation and trafficking within the UK.
What does the NWG bring to Project CESIUM?
As well as my own personal experience of exploitation from a ‘victim’, ‘offender’ and ‘location’ perspective, CESIUM offers the opportunity to identify victims earlier and provide a means to share information in order to develop multi- agency interventions to prevent and disrupt exploitation.
The NWG Exploitation Response Unit has over 14,500 practitioners who disseminate information down through their services, to professionals working on the issue of exploitation and trafficking within the UK. This dissemination network will be of great advantage to CESIUM, when we are looking to identify trends, gather information or share information.
How does CESIUM seek to support the fight against child exploitation?
Through the use of co-design methods and privacy-by-design, Project CESIUM will develop algorithms to identify risks relating to child exploitation including vulnerability to sexual exploitation, and wider criminal exploitation which includes, although not exclusively, county lines and gang violence.
The vision of CESIUM is to use cutting-edge machine learning to identify children & locations most at risk of CE, as well as those most likely to perpetrate CE, both now and in the future in order to reduce harm and effectively deploy and commission safeguarding services.
What is your experience of the identification and use of trigger information/data to combat child exploitation?
Through my involvement in several child sexual exploitation operations, it was apparent there were numerous risk assessments in place for CSE victims, however, there were none to assist police and partners in predicting who may become a victim or offender of CSE or prioritising the risk which offenders of CSE posed.
Additionally, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are widely talked about nationally as being potential indicators of vulnerability. ACEs alongside CESIUM’s application of machine learning techniques to the analysis of big data to prevent and combat children exploitation will assist in tackling exploitation and identifying vulnerability.
Why did you get involved in CESIUM?
CESIUM supports the fight against child exploitation positively in several ways. Firstly, it searches systems and presents professionals with information organisations may already know but is often hidden or scattered from professional’s knowledge within systems. CESIUM brings this information, data, or intelligence to the forefront of professional’s attention. Secondly, it can assist in predicting or preventing harm, with multiple pieces of information collated through CESIUM it can help determine potential victims or perpetrators of exploitation and assist in the identification of locations where exploitation is taking place. One of the core principles of CESIUM is that it does not replace professional judgement, it steers professionals to relevant and important information, so they are able to make a well-informed decision. Co-designing algorithms with the various multi-agency perspectives of the MACE partners helps CESIUM present data and insights that supports all partners in determining child safeguarding priorities in ways that are independent of an individual’s bias or experience.
The NWG fully supports the work CESIUM is developing and the impact of this work is evident in the Lincolnshire police pilot. The professionals, which The NWG supports will through CESIUM have access to the right information about an individual or location, to be able to use their professional judgement to determine the necessary action to be taken to safeguard children from exploitation. CESIUM is a much-needed tool to tackle the exploitation of our children and is welcomed by The NWG.
For more information, please contact our team.