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Call for more training for night workers to spot signs of abuse after Nightwatch success

Release Date: 06 Jan 2017

Young people out in London at night are safer from the risk of sexual abuse thanks to a pioneering Barnardo’s project – and the charity is now calling for further training for night-time workers.

The Nightwatch initiative raised awareness among more than 2,000 people in London to spot children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation during the evening and early hours.

Those who Barnardo’s worked with in Camden and Islington include police officers, community wardens, teachers, hotel managers and concierges, doctors and nurses, minicab drivers, social workers, street pastors and students.

An independent evaluation by the University of Bedfordshire said the scheme far exceeded its target in terms of reach and was effective in raising awareness among night-time economy workers.  

London’s Nightwatch project ran in the two boroughs for two years in the until March 2016, with 2,092 people taking part, including 103 working in licensed premises, 41 taxi drivers and 80 public transport workers.

Nightwatch pilots also ran at the same time in 12 other areas, with nearly 17,000 night-time workers taking part across England.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

It’s clear that children and young people are safer after dark as a result of the Nightwatch programme, which successfully raised awareness among more than 2,000 night-time workers in London and nearly 15,000 more across England.

“We need to build on that success by extending this network of eyes and ears still further, so that many more night-time workers know how to recognise and report a situation in which a child may be being sexually abused or exploited. Barnardo’s believes the Department for Education and the Home Office should build on the learning from this programme by developing good quality training for night-time economy workers, and enabling local businesses to deliver that training.

Feedback from those who took part in the London Nightwatch scheme:

Taxi driver, Islington: “From now on I will be looking out for the signs of abuse or child sexual exploitation from any passengers or people who I think could be in trouble.”

Class teacher, London: “I didn't know that children using technology were so vulnerable, even if there are no signs.”

Since Nightwatch came to an end, Barnardo’s has launched a three-year project to carry out targeted prevention work around child sexual abuse and exploitation in three more London boroughs. Stop It Before It Starts aims to increase awareness among faith and cultural groups in Wandsworth, boys and young men in Hackney, and community and voluntary sector groups that support children with learning disabilities and autism in Barking & Dagenham.

Local businesses who want to find out about how they can better protect children can call Barnardo’s on 0151 488 1174.


Note to editors

For more information please contact Dan Hodges on 07887 737 048 or email

Barnardo’s specialist child sexual exploitation services ran the innovative Nightwatch project and provided classroom-based learning, outreach work in the community and sessions on reporting concerns to the police.

The pilot was carried out in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Buckinghamshire, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sheffield, Sussex, and Wakefield.

In London, participants from different sectors of the night-time economy broke down as follows:

Accommodation/hotels/B&B               11

Community Group                         454

Higher Education                        106

Licensed premises                       103

Private sector - mixed audience         41

Public/Vol. sector - Mixed audience    1236

Public transport                        80

Taxi                                    41

Other                                   20

Total                                   2092

The charity was funded by the Department for Education to deliver the free tuition so night workers have the confidence to report signs of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Barnardo’s marked its 150th anniversary in 2016. Thomas Barnardo’s vision was for no child to be turned away from the help they need. During its 150 year history the charity has helped transform the lives of millions of disadvantaged children in the UK, and continues to help families to build a better future.

Last year 248,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 996 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

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