Steve Darling: Forums working together to protect children and young people
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During what is now more than a quarter of a century working for the people of Torbay as a councillor, I have learnt that the best way to find out how our council is serving our communities is to engage with those communities directly, or the front line staff who deal with them.
On one of these community visits I revealed more than I planned to at the mosque in Torquay when, after I took my shoes off to enter, it became apparent that I was wearing Kermit the frog socks.
Exploitation of children is an area where we have made significant strides in recent months by improving our working relationships with partner organisations and young people to tackle this serious matter.
To improve elected members' understanding, a number of senior councillors virtually visited the most recent Missing and Child Exploitation Forum (MACE).
These forums are held regularly in Torbay to share information between different organisations on children at risk, perpetrators and locations.
This forum was a good opportunity for cabinet members to find out more about the broader picture in Torbay, to hear about the fantastic partnership work that is being carried out and to explore how we can offer more support.
At the forum, we discussed and explored a range of issues, such as if there is enough support for children with mental health issues, where the biggest risks originate from and how we can engage with and train people in our communities to help them spot signs of child exploitation.
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I was heartened by how much work is being carried out in Torbay and the desire to engage with more sectors to give even greater protection to children who need it.
It is vital that the council has a clear vision on how we tackle these issues, but we can't do it alone, and that is why forums like MACE are so important.
By working together we can make a difference and help create a 'Child Friendly Torbay' which is an ambition of our administration.
Supporting the local economy is also a priority of our administration, but it continues to be a worrying time for many businesses in Torbay as we continue to tackle the Covid pandemic.
I would encourage any businesses who need some extra support to try and tap into the range of information and help that is out there.
The deadline has now passed to apply for a discretionary business grant and this week we have started paying eligible applicants.
But the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund are still active so any eligible businesses which haven't yet accessed this source of funding should do so as soon as possible in order not to miss out.
In addition to this, Torbay Council has made £200,000 available to financially support groups and organisations in the local community and voluntary sector who have been responding to Covid-19 and we're offering grants of up to £25,000.