Child exploitation review finds commitment and good practice

Published Thursday, 12th December 2013
Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board logo
Safeguarding Children Board logo

An independent review by children’s charity Barnardo’s has found that the Council and other local agencies are fully committed to addressing child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

The 'snapshot' of current practice - commissioned by the Council as part of the Local Safeguarding Children's Board action plan - found good examples of how agencies are working well together to tackle the issue as a top priority. They were commended for their "transparency, openness and honesty" throughout the review process.

Good practice identified in the review report includes:

  • A specialist multi-agency team dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation with those young people at greatest risk
  • Leadership through Gold and Silver groups driving a clear strategy and plan of action
  • A robust training strategy for key professionals and frontline staff, and recognition that this should be delivered through a 'train the trainer' programme and online training packages for the wider workforce
  • Partnership working across wider social networks, including businesses, social landlords and communities

The review also commended the links between the Council's Youth Service and local Protecting Young People Police Officers, with their combined work in identifying and reducing the numbers of vulnerable people in the community, schools and 'hot spot' areas.

The review recommended that this approach is expanded to include links with:

  • faith groups, migrant communities and the local business community, including hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation
  • housing and social landlords
  • taxis and public transport
  • takeaways and food outlets, shopping centres and public spaces, pubs and clubs

Evidence for the report was collected in September from a desktop review of Rotherham's child sexual exploitation action plans, policies and procedures, as well as interviews with key professionals, Council members and representatives of other agencies. National guidance was also considered.

The review also included a visit to the multi-agency team in Maltby, where managers were interviewed. The report recognises the significant pressures faced by the team and the increased scrutiny under which it is operating, given the increased focus nationally, regionally and locally on child exploitation issues. This can be heightened by the sometimes competing demands of their own organisations and the wider safeguarding children agenda.

Says the report, "As is the nature of all developing multi-agency teams, work needs to be done to ensure the team have time to fully understand each other's roles and the potential that each partner can bring to the team."

The review identified a number of areas for further development, including:

  • Improved access to the team, including continued use of outreach from the team's Maltby base and opportunities for self-referral
  • Developing the network of professionals able to identify and work with young people deemed to be at low and medium risk, and the development of a South Yorkshire-wide risk assessment tool
  • The sharing and analysis of information and intelligence, and the need to recruit a dedicated Police analyst to the team
  • Involving children and young people in the development of approaches to tackling child exploitation
  • A more co-ordinated approach to communicating through the media with local people and other affected groups

Rotherham's Local Safeguarding Children's Board will consider the report at its meeting on Friday 13 December.

Chief Executive, Martin Kimber, said the report demonstrated the significant progress that Rotherham had made in tackling child exploitation, but would be used as part of the wider planning process to secure further improvements.

"It is important that we regularly review the actions we are taking to prevent the vile crime of child sexual exploitation, to protect our children and young people, and to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice," he said.

"We are grateful to Barnardo's for undertaking this independent review and for providing what we believe to be a balanced and accurate snapshot of our services here in Rotherham. This will now be considered along with the findings of a number of other wide-ranging reviews, including the independent inquiry commissioned by the Council."

Steve Oversby, Director for Barnardo's East region, said, "Barnardo's has a wealth of experience in tackling child sexual exploitation and supporting victims. We strive to influence and change practice amongst local Safeguarding Children Boards, local service planners and providers, the Police and Crown Prosecution Service, as well as raise public awareness into this heinous crime.

"It is clear to us that agencies and Council members in Rotherham are absolutely committed to addressing child sexual exploitation. Our recommendations for future practice, coupled with the positive examples we found that are already embedded in the organisation, bode well for the future."

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