It's time to bring back civics lessons

One of the most depressing things for me about last week's local elections was the incredibly poor turnout yet again.

The public doesn't really take much interest in local government unless it affects them personally. A lot of people don't even know or care what councils are responsible for or what councillors do and this needs to change.

I don't know if civics is taught in schools these days but if it isn't it should be. Everyone should learn how they are governed and by whom. And I'm very much in favour of the kind of voting system used in Australia where if you don't vote you need to provide an acceptable reason.

It's all very well complaining about the council failings, but if you've not done your civic duty and voted to elect your local councillors then you really have no place to complain about anything.

Ruth King

North Swindon

Join the fight against child exploitation

Across the country, thousands of children and young people are subjected to horrific exploitation and abuse every year.

They are groomed by predators with offers of friendship, gifts, cash and status then coerced using terrifying threats and violence into crimes like trafficking drugs in ‘county lines’ operations.

Children are also exploited for sex and some are forced to work in premises like car washes and nail bars.

In the South East in 2019/20, gangs were identified as a risk 1,860 times in assessments of children referred to social services, while trafficking was deemed to be a factor on 340 occasions, both indicators of child criminal exploitation.

Risks of child sexual exploitation were highlighted in 2,640 assessments and in 2,550 instances, children going missing, also a sign of exploitation, was pinpointed as a factor.

However, many children are too scared to tell adults what is happening. That’s why we need your help.

During the week from Monday 17 May The Children’s Society is running a Look Closer Awareness Week with the National County Lines Coordination Centre and police forces across the country including British Transport Police.

Our ongoing #Look Closer campaign urges everyone – from commuters and delivery drivers to hotel and shop staff – to look out for signs of child exploitation in public spaces and their neighbourhood and report any concerns.

Signs could include children carrying large amounts of cash, appearing under the control of others, looking lost, or travelling alone at night. Trauma may lead to children appearing angry or aggressive rather than vulnerable or upset as people might expect – so look beyond the obvious.

Anyone worried about a child can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

If there is an immediate risk to a child dial 999. If you are on a train text British Transport Police on 61016

You may not be sure about your concerns, but trust your instincts. Your phone call could be a crucial first step in helping a child escape a situation of terrible abuse and unimaginable trauma.

Mark Russell

Chief Executive

The Children’s Society