To consider the attached presentation and report on Child Sexual Exploitation.
4.1Ann James, Executive Director of Children’s Services, invited the following representatives to give a presentation on Gloucestershire’s multi-agency approach to child sexual exploitation (CSE):
· Jane Price, Child Exploitation Coordinator for Children’s Services at Gloucestershire County Council (GCC),
· Dan Jones, Central Area Manager (Specialist Services) at GCC,
· Lynne Speak, Head of Service – Youth Support at Shaw Trust delivered by Prospects Service,
· Jane Willett, Practice and Development Manager – Youth Support Team at Shaw Trust,
· Kirsty Sedgeman, Specialist Nurse for Safeguarding Children at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust,
· Detective Superintendent Steve Bean, Head of Public Protection at Gloucestershire Constabulary.
4.2The focus of Gloucestershire’s approach to CSE centred around the 4 ‘P’s’.
- Prevent (to support and stop exploitation)
- Prepare (to ensure a person-centred response to exploitation)
- Protect (to reduce vulnerability and adapt to changes in threat)
- Pursue (to pursue exploiters and reduce risk
The full presentation can be found in the agenda report pack
4.3Responding to a member’s question about coordination, officers confirmed that the umbrella board for the multiagency approach to CSE was the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership which included a subgroup specifically centred around CSE and missing children. It was stated that missing children were particularly at risk to CSE. Officers suggested the need for a digital information sharing site which would be used to identify vulnerable children and highlight those who could be at risk of CSE by linking up different information such as health and police records. It was stated that other counties already had this type of system in place.
4.4When asked by the Committee what was needed to be able to create a digital sharing platform, the officers confirmed that once the IT was sufficiently stable, the digitised information sharing site could be created.
Recommendation – The Committee recommended the creation of a digitised information sharing system.
4.5Officers confirmed that they worked with colleagues and shared best practice where possible. Gloucestershire was part of the National Working Group, the Contextual Safeguarding Strategic Partnership, the National Reference Group for Missing Children and the National CSE Taskforce which made for good integration with other practice groups.
4.6Responding to a member’s question about how they measured the success of their methods, the Officers confirmed that it was difficult to measure outcomes particularly prevention of CSE. Each agency within the CSE multiagency approach had their own success measures. An example given was that reducing the number of missing episodes of a child was viewed as a success because it lowered the child’s risk of CSE. Another officer confirmed that they measured success through the awareness of the risk of CSE within every community as this caused communities to be more proactive if they saw signs of CSE.
4.7A member raised concern about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and how they could be protected from CSE. It was confirmed that children arriving in Gloucestershire could be either through ‘spontaneous presentation’ or the more common way was via the National Transfer Scheme where Government informed GCC of the children who needed to be placed in the county. However, the Officers confirmed that GCC tried to proactively offer places to children when they had capacity at a foster home or supported accommodation in order to be ahead of the curve. It was identified that these children can be most at risk of being exploited which was why it was so important to have support in place. It was stressed that if members had any concerns, they should make officers aware.
4.8 When asked, the officer confirmed that currently the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Gloucestershire was in the mid-70s. The Government required that 0.1% of Gloucestershire’s under-18 population should be unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who are looked after by GCC. That would equate to 120 children, so currently Gloucestershire is below its quota. However, the officer confirmed that Gloucestershire was not the only county who were below and confirmed that plans were being developed to deliver suitable accommodation and care for the children.
4.9 Responding to a member’s question about how family hubs could be used to assist with the prevention of CSE, the officers confirmed that the family hubs gave an opportunity to provide localised support to each community and to understand the needs and the risks of the individual communities.
4.10 A member raised concern about the 16% solved rate for CSE crimes, the officer confirmed that some of the reasons why they were so low was due to a lack of evidence or more commonly victims not wanting to engage with the criminal justice system.
4.11 When asked if there was support for vulnerable parents who may be coerced into exploiting their children, officers confirmed that there was currently no specific support system. It was stated that officers often work with the young person first and then later with the parents if necessary. It was stated that there used to be a family support officer but due to the removal of funding, this position no longer existed.
4.12 Responding to a member’s question about if measures were being put in place to fill that support gap, the officer confirmed that they had created media campaigns to educate parents, but targeting the right audience was difficult. One officer highlighted that they had created parent sessions in schools but again there was an issue of accessing all parents. It was identified by the officers that there was national guidance available. The Chair asked the officers to ascertain what resources were available on the GCC website.
ACTION – Ann James
4.13 The Committee asked about what counselling services were available to victims of CSE. The officers confirmed that there was not a specific CSE counselling service, and it was identified that most counselling wait times were extensive. One officer did state that they often needed to work with the young people to build up their self-esteem and confidence to be able to talk about what had happened before they could go to counselling. It was identified that young people might be referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or Teens in Crisis (TIC). One of the officers confirmed that she would check the counselling provision for CSE victims.
ACTION – Kirsty Sedgeman