A new scheme aimed at tackling child exploitation has been launched across the district.

The Spot It Stop It campaign has been introduced by Braintree Council to help businesses spot the signs of exploitation and show premises are safe spaces for young people to visit.

More than 70 members of staff from hotels and fast-food businesses like McDonalds, Cineworld, Freeport Braintree and Holiday Inn have already been trained to spot the signs of exploitation and told how they can report any concerns.

Wendy Schmitt, councillor responsible for community safety, said: "It is a really important issue which can cause serious harm to the person and something one organisation cannot tackle in isolation - that’s why we are working closely with partner organisations so we can together play a positive role in safeguarding children, raising awareness of the issue and making our communities safer.

"We all have a duty and a responsibility to ensure we do everything we possibly can to keep children safe, so we hope that this scheme will help more people spot the signs and show them where they can go to seek help and support.”

The campaign is being supported by the Braintree District Community Safety Partnership, which includes organisations such as Essex Police and Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

District Commander for Braintree, Craig Carrington, said: "It’s vital that we can all spot the signs a young person may be vulnerable so that together we can all help protect them from harm.

“Staff working in our local businesses play an important part in this because they work in the heart of our community and see hundreds, if not thousands, of people a day.

“However, we must all be vigilant. If you see something that doesn’t feel right, please report it. It could make all the difference to a child’s life.”

To sign up to the scheme, email communityservices@braintree.gov.uk or visit www.braintree.gov.uk/spotitstopit.