Councillors want to help tackle exploitation by ensuring members of the public feel able to let them know about their problems.

It comes amid concerns over a lack of awareness of the democratic process and a reluctance to engage among some groups of people – particularly youngsters.

Councillors regularly hold surgeries in public buildings such as libraries where people can talk about their problems and ask for advice.

At a meeting of Enfield Council’s vulnerable young people task group on Tuesday (December 3), members said encouraging people to attend surgeries could help to tackle exploitation.

Claire Whetstone, director of Enfield children’s and young persons’ services, told the meeting her team was trying to tackle issues such as the county lines trade – in which youngsters are groomed by gangs to take part in drug trafficking – and female genital mutilation.

But she said the council needed to do more to make people feel part of the community and able to come forward if they are at risk of exploitation.

Ms Whetstone said: “It is about when people come into Enfield – how do we make them feel part of the community and make sure they are engaged – to really make them feel part of the community from the word go?”

“When talking to young people, what I am always struck by is they have no idea they can talk to councillors…at ward surgeries and community meetings.

“Whether they are newly arrived [in the borough] or young people, that engagement in the democratic process is not there.

“That is something we need to look at – do people know how to voice their concerns?”

Cllr Glynis Vince (Conservative, Highlands), suggested councillors could attend school councils to help raise awareness of what they do and how they can help young people.

Cllr Yasemin Brett (Labour, Bowes) said: “I totally agree. We do surgeries as well – not just ‘sitting in’ surgeries, we also run surgeries where we go out into the community.

“It is about going out there and not expecting people to come to us.”

Cllr Brett pointed out that there were opportunities for councillors to promote integration by welcoming people into the borough at events like British citizenship ceremonies.

Cllr Elaine Hayward (Conservative, Cockfosters) said the borough’s young mayor could help people to integrate and raise awareness of democratic processes.

Councillors also praised a recent play that was shown in secondary schools to raise awareness of the county lines drug trade, and officers said they hoped to attract funding to allow them to stage similar productions next year.