BOLTON Lads and Girls Club has a long and proud history of making a difference to the lives of young people.

It has helped hundreds, if not thousands of young people in the town who have been having difficulty in school or at home to stay on the straight and narrow.

Today, it is a national success story and its model has been recreated across the country.

But in the late 1990s, then chief executive Jerry Glover and his team were trying to tackle an emerging problem of young girls being sexually exploited by organised gangs ­— a pattern that was being seen in other towns such as Rochdale.

The club set up a one-to-one mentoring scheme which would enable young people to be free talk freely and be supported by their mentor.

Once it helped get children back into school and helped with their mental health, even more serious issues such as sexual exploitation were dealt with.

Mr Glover believes the efforts of those at the club ­—along with other agencies in the town ­— helped avert a similar crisis happening in Bolton.

Child sexual exploitation is a complicated issue and it cannot be tackled by one person or group alone.

As was highlighted by the Rochdale abuse case, a concerted approach was needed from organisations including police, social workers, the council and the NHS to support victims and bring offenders to justice.