Joint Targeted Area Inspections conclude that progress has been made in tackling Child Sexual Exploitation since 2014.
Child Sexual Exploitation can be tackled effectively when all partner agencies take responsibility for their role, work collaboratively with each other and have a shared understanding of how to tackle the exploitation of children, a report has concluded.
Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HMI Probation and HMI Constabulary carried out five Joint Targeted Area Inspections in South Tyneside MBC, Oxfordshire, Central Bedfordshire, Croydon and Liverpool with a ‘deep dive focus’ on CSE.
The move followed Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham in 2014 which found that around 1,400 children were victims of child sexual exploitation in the area. A subsequent report from Ofsted on CSE found that the exploitation of children had not been sufficiently prioritised and local arrangements to tackle the problem were under-developed.
“Tackling child sexual exploitation can be done. The five joint targeted area inspections (JTAIs) have found evidence of progress being made in many local areas, which is resulting in better support for children at risk of, or subject to, child sexual exploitation,” said the report Time to listen − a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children.
The report found:
- Political will and determination to drive improvements are in place
- Significant investment has been made in CSE services in spite of the climate of funding cuts
- All five areas inspected had strategies and plans in place to tackle child sexual exploitation.
- Prevention and raising awareness in local communities was seen to be a real strength.
- In the majority of cases, professionals worked collaboratively to engage and work with children and families affected by child sexual exploitation.
- Engagement with young people was good where professionals carefully planned their work together.
- In most cases reviewed, police responses were effective, and in some instances, impressive.
Young people told of the importance of building a relationship with a professional and feeling that they are involved in decisions and are respected. However, this was not evident in each case. Some children had too many professionals involved with them and a lack of coordination, together with assessments that did not always consider all of the child’s needs, meant that support for children was not meaningful to them or meeting all their needs.
Professionals had poor understanding of child sexual exploitation in a small number of cases, which was evident through their inappropriate use of language and affected their ability to engage with children effectively.
“Of particular concern are the findings that frontline health professionals do not all have the skills needed to identify child sexual exploitation and not all children have easy access to sexual health services,” said the report. “In some instances, even when health professionals are provided with the tools and checklists to identify sexual exploitation, they do not always use them.”
The report warned that a key element of effective joint working to address CSE is an effective child protection system, yet inspectors identified significant weaknesses in child protection work in one local area that had not been identified and addressed by managers in children’s social care. “Without robust management oversight within agencies and across partners, it is difficult to implement an effective multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation,” said the report.
Responses to children missing require further development in most areas visited and more needs to be done to enable the police and children’s social care to have a better understanding of the reasons why children go missing. Understanding of the barriers to ensuring effective responses when children go missing, including making return home interviews work, needs to improve, warned inspectors.
“We saw many good examples of effective joint working during the inspections. All agencies, including the police, children’s social care, health, youth offending services and the voluntary sector, must learn from these examples of good and effective practice. The challenge of tackling child sexual exploitation is not going away. Multi-agency systems within local areas must build on the strengths identified in this report so that all children get the services and support they need,” the report concluded.
Key findings include:
- Strategic goals must be clearly identified, understood and agreed across agencies.
- Agencies 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.
- Where frontline staff are well trained to use risk assessment checklists and apply professional knowledge and skill to recognise risks, this is making a real difference to children.
- The most effective assessments of the risks of child sexual exploitation involved young people and all the professionals working with them.
- Leaders’ and managers’ oversight and supervision of frontline practice are critical.
“This series of joint targeted area inspections has seen evidence of progress in most areas but also identified some significant areas for improvement in order to ensure that all children who are vulnerable and require support receive the appropriate intervention at the earliest opportunity. Each of the inspectorates will continue to maintain a focus on child sexual exploitation and children who go missing and the child sexual exploitation deep dive guidance will remain published. Future joint targeted area inspections are already planned to focus on issues such as children living with domestic abuse, those suffering neglect and those children sexually abused within the family. All of these can be precursors to children who go missing and become at risk of sexual exploitation and so will continue to contribute to the sector’s understanding of child and adolescent vulnerability,” the report concluded.