Child sexual exploitation response
Published Wednesday 9th January 13
Statement from Councillor Roger Stone, Leader of Rotherham MBC; Martin Kimber, Chief Executive of Rotherham MBC; Joyce Thacker, Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services; and Councillor Paul Lakin, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families’ Services:
Rotherham Borough Council and its partners have made an unequivocal commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation, protecting vulnerable young people and bringing the perpetrators of these despicable crimes to justice.
The exploitation and grooming of children is now more widely reported across the country and areas such as Rotherham have been working to unite all agencies in tackling the issue.
It is widely recognised both locally and nationally that child sexual exploitation was not tackled anywhere near as well in the past as it is now. We would apologise to young people and their families where they have been let down. That is rarely as a consequence of individual failings, but is nearly always as a result of wider systemic failings.
We accept that in the past our services have not been as strong as they are today however, we have learnt from our experiences and those of other areas around the country to develop our services. This is an area of work where significant progress has been made nationally to expand the knowledge and understanding of how to effectively recognise the warning signs of child sexual exploitation in a young person and how to deal with those to support those individuals and investigate the crimes committed.
Rotherham has consistently set out to learn from others and share our experiences through research with and calls for evidence from organisations such as Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), the Deputy Children’s Commissioner and the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, as we recognise these issues demand the best possible responses.
It is now clear, again both locally and nationally, that the best way to tackle child sexual exploitation is by agencies working much more closely together with shared responsibility and shared accountability as a single agency by itself will never be successful.
Our improvements have been independently reviewed by Ofsted as recently as July 2012 in their review of child protection in Rotherham. Inspectors highlighted the ‘Good collaborative working between the Council and the police to tackle child sexual exploitation.’ The inspection team also commended the positive improvements made generally to child protection services in Rotherham. This gives re-assurance that positive outcomes for children and young people are becoming embedded in our work.
We commend the Select Committee, agencies such as CEOP and the media for the way they have helped bring this difficult topic into the open nationally. Raising awareness levels will make the reporting of these evil crimes more accessible to the public. Both the Council and South Yorkshire Police, following on from what we have heard from the Select Committee, will be working on how we can drive forward the prosecution of offenders.
Rotherham was one of the first areas in the country to have a dedicated service working with victims and potential victims of sexual exploitation as far back as 1997 and from that work we have now re-designed our service and co-located with the police.
Our service aims to achieve successful prosecutions of perpetrators, raise awareness of the issue with young people and parents to help prevent more children from becoming victims and support those who are affected to help them recognise themselves as victims. There will also be an increase in support for victims and their families.
Through this work we will deter offenders and potential offenders and disrupt the networks that groom young people, in addition to prosecuting people for their crimes.
This co-located team draws on best practice across the country and involves qualified social workers and support workers and is working alongside officers from the Police’s Public Protection Unit to ensure a shared responsibility and consistent approach.
Part of this work will also continue the strong link with local schools to provide education and information to young people about the dangers from sexual exploitation. There will also be close working with groups from communities across Rotherham to highlight the ‘warning signs’ and involve families and the wider public more closely in assisting agencies to tackle these crimes.
In addition, a wide range of training has been taking place for professionals from across agencies in Rotherham so they can identify signs of exploitation and improve support for young people and families.
The Council is involved with partner agencies in on-going investigations and have previously been involved in cases over the past three years. We have been very disappointed where arrests have not led to successful prosecutions. This is an issue on which the Council, Police and other agencies will be focusing very strongly on.
However, what this work has achieved so far is an increase in the numbers of young people being protected from harm. In some instances prosecutions have not been secured despite the best efforts of all concerned as it has not been possible to get sufficient evidence from the victims, many of whom do not see themselves as victims. In these cases, alternative action has been taken such as serving abduction notices and closer scrutiny by police officers of addresses where concerns have been raised.
At the next Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children’s Board meeting we will focus on the issue of sexual exploitation as part of the work to closely monitor performance and will provide more information to groups such as the Local Strategic Partnership and the local community so they can challenge and support the development of service provision.
Our commitment to tackling the issue has been backed by an increase in financial support for children’s safeguarding services in Rotherham with the amount of funding rising by 5.65m between 2010/11 and 2012/13, increasing the proportion of the Council’s budget spent on safeguarding from around 9% to 12.7%.
All this work and the creation of a joint team between the local authority and the police is a clear message to all in the borough that we will not tolerate the disgusting exploitation of our young people.