A report published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) says Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) strategies are not being implemented by enough front line staff across the UK and as a result, victims and potential victims are still not being identified by child protection agencies.
The document entitled ‘If it’s not better, it’s not the end’ is an inquiry into CSE in gangs and groups up and down the country one year since the OCC first published the final report in its ground-breaking inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups.
It reveals that strong strategies to tackle sexual exploitation “do not always lead to effective frontline practice”, according to local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs), police forces and voluntary sector organisations.
It states that all the elements of a great safeguarding plan are there in principle – it’s simply the case that staff in some authorities don’t know just how serious a problem CSE is and so they are not rushing to implement the policies. Bottom line? The same children who were at risk a year ago are still at risk today.
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) is a national public sector organisation led by the Children’s Commissioner for England and promotes and protects children’s rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In some areas of the country there has been real progress, whereas in others it’s just not being recognised as the huge problem it is.
Using its unique statutory powers, the OCC decided to gather a huge body of evidence and published six influential reports covering children in care; the prevalence and nature of child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups; the impact on children of viewing adult pornography; young people’s understanding of consent; sexual exploitation in gang-involved neighbourhoods; and the final report which set out a framework for tackling this crime and supporting victims.
It is encouraging that in many parts of England, police forces and LSCBs have put in place strategies for responding to CSE – 92% of LSCBs have now produced a CSE strategy and 79% of police forces have produced a strategic analysis or problem profile.
But at the same time the number of those children actually detected was likely to be “a significant underestimate of the true scale of the problem” in some regions.
A study heavily reported on in the West Midlands on CSE stated that many victims worry they will not be believed or are threatened by the offenders and don’t feel able to seek help. Many victims of grooming do not see themselves as victims of abuse as they have been so significantly manipulated by the perpetrators.
The Athena Programme was created to help provide better training and understanding of how to keep our young and vulnerable safe
As director and founder of The Athena Programme, I believe we should
be looking at new ways, through the use of technology and awareness at all staffing levels so that we can effectively safeguard potential and existing victims by working alongside the practitioners and increase their own confidence in managing risky situations.
Taking the essential foundations of good practice from this report is crucial within training and the development of policies, along with early help and preventative strategies. I believe a CSE multi-agency team at a local level should be mandatory in every local authority.
Inquiry publication http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/publications/content_580
Community Care Report