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Agencies are working more effectively together to tackle CSE

Children 'must be involved in decisions about their lives'

A new report by Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation, has found improvement in the multi-agency response to tackling child sexual exploitation over the past two years.

'Time to listen' – a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children emphasises that child sexual exploitation can be tackled, but only if all partners take responsibility for their role as a discrete agency, work collaboratively with each other and have a shared understanding of how to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The report says that strategic goals must be clearly identified, understood and agreed across agencies, which also must commit resources to tackle child sexual exploitation. However, collective commitment at a strategic level is not always translating into effective practice.

The local authority, police, health and other key agencies like probation and youth offending must share information and intelligence to fully understand the local patterns of child sexual exploitation, to disrupt and deter perpetrators and to identify, help and protect children. They need to be aware that patterns of offending evolve and change rapidly, for example the increase in online grooming. A dedicated professional, with good access to a range of multi-agency information to ensure that those children who are at risk and the profile of offenders are understood and managed, is needed to best inform local areas.

Raising awareness across the community is crucial, says the report. Whilst schools have a critical role, the wider community, including parents and carers as well as public services such as transport and recreation and the business community, needs to take responsibility for their role in protecting children.

The Inspectorates note that children benefit from being able to build a relationship with one trusted individual, and being actively involved in decisions about their lives. Professionals in all agencies, and particularly social workers and health professionals, need the time and capacity to build relationships with children if they are to effectively identify children at risk and help protect them.

There also needs to be a better understanding of why children go missing at an individual and a strategic level if agencies are to do more to protect them. The response to children missing should be based on a proper assessment of all known risks by the police that are appropriately shared with the local authority.

In too many areas visited, inspectors found the health community has insufficient resources. In a minority of cases, key frontline healthcare professionals had an inadequate understanding of the signs of child sexual exploitation.

Inspectors found that unacceptable variation in police practice and performance between and within areas remains and means that some children have to wait too long to get the help and support they need.

Responses by professionals to children and families affected by child sexual exploitation varied widely. In most cases, professionals were highly committed to engaging with children, listening to their views and understanding their experiences. However, in some cases, their engagement with children was being hampered by poor-quality assessments and planning that failed to address all of the children's needs. There were a small number of cases where inappropriate language and ill-informed comments about promiscuity and the giving of consent by professionals could have conveyed to the child they were held responsible for the abuse.

To read the report, please click here.