Cornwall Council are supporting Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day – will you?

With the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) becoming increasingly high-profile following some disturbing cases in the national media over the past twelve months. As part of raising awareness of CSE,  Cornwall Council is supporting today’s (18th March) National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.  As Lead Member for Children’s Service I fully support this awareness day, but really we should be raising awareness of CSE 365 days a year, As TOGETHER, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse within the UK.

The aim of the day is to help raise awareness of the issue and potential dangers, encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.

There are a number of myths about child sexual exploitation – but the stark truth is that it is present across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women.  Sexual exploitation takes many forms, from a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship, where sexual acts are given for affection, accommodation, alcohol, drugs, money or gifts, through to the prostitution or trafficking of children across the counties, town or streets for the purpose of sexual activity . It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post indecent sexual images of themselves on the internet. Any young person can become a victim of sexual exploitation and many young people, who are being exploited, frequently do not recognise they are being abused.

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Our children should expect to lead their lives free of abuse, exploitation and neglect and we must do all that we can to meet their expectations.  Sexual exploitation of our children damages their self-esteem; harms them emotionally  and interferes with their life-long ambitions. 

What is child sexual exploitation? Everybody has the right to be safe no matter who they are or what their circumstances.  We are all responsible for the safety of children and young people we must ensure that we are doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is child abuse involving children and young people receiving something, such as attention, affection, gifts, alcohol, drugs or accommodation, as a result of them being coerced into performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual acts on them.  It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post indecent sexual images of themselves on the internet.  Any young person can become a victim of sexual exploitation and many young people, who are being exploited, frequently do not recognise they are being abused.   It affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women.

What can you do to today? Please help to raise awareness of this important issue by sharing this information with your colleagues, friends and families. If we all know what to do, and we all work together, we can make a real difference.

#helpinghands

#helpinghands

Furthermore, If you use social media, write a personal pledge on your hands to show support for our Helping Hands campaign. Post your photo on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands to help us raise awareness of CSE.

If you would like to find out more information about child sexual exploitation including information for parents and carers and the myths surrounding this subject please visit the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Safeguarding Children Board website.

 

We should support Social Workers, not criminalise them

Let’s make one thing clear, Child Sexual Exploitation is an abhorrent crime and we must do all we can to eradicate it. Those who prey on the vulnerable for their own sexual pleasure should be brought to justice. CSE is a crime. There is no place for CSE in our society. It is important to say CSE is not just the responsibility of social workers, but it is everyone’s business, and the only way to deal with this issue is for all agencies to work together to eradicate CSE.

It makes your heart sink when you read the detail behind Rotherham and other similar incidents. You really wonder how such a complete system failure happened. The system did fail, and we must all learn from those failures. I know as the Lead Member for Children and Young People in Cornwall my head, along with the Director of Children’s Service (DCS) head, is on the chopping block if it all goes wrong in the department. This responsibility drives you to make sure you are protecting children.

Today, the Prime Minister wants to criminalise teachers, social workers and Councillors who turn a blind eye to child abuse. Those are strong words indeed. However, is threatening frontline social workers with jail is not the way to keep children safe?

Following the announcement by Prime Minister, Prof Brigid Featherstone, Chair of The College’s Children and Families Faculty, said:

“While we recognise that a strong response is needed to the deplorable practice of child sexual exploitation, threatening to jail frontline social workers is not the answer. We have been similarly clear about this in relation to mandatory reporting, for which there is no sound evidence.   Not only will such a move reinforce an already persecutory climate for those struggling to deliver services in difficult times, but the proposals also fail to address the incredibly important safeguarding issues that recent Serious Case Reviews have raised.

We need support and training of staff at all levels on how to recognise, report on, and help stop child abuse. We must also ensure a full and effective range of responses to different forms of abuse. We must address the severe lack of investment in child protection services, which has put organisations and systems under incredible strain and systems under incredible strain and reduced their capacity for in-depth work with children and their families.”

As a Lead Member I wholeheartedly welcome the comments by Prof Brigid Featherstone. Threatening frontline workers with jail and using fear was not the best way of protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse.  Cornwall Children’s Services has remained focused on training social workers, and creating the conditions for effective relationship based practice in the current climate of reduced spending required by all authorities.

It is vital that we support our social workers who are doing a very demanding and difficult job in keeping children safe. This was highlighted at a recent Local Safeguarding Children Board conference I attended where Professor Ray Jones stressed that child abuse is not just the responsibility of social work, but for all those who work in public services.

As I said in the title, let’s support Social Workers, not criminalise them.

Child Sexual Exploitation does happen in Cornwall

This blog post on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is not going to be an easy read for some. I make no apology for this, as Child Sexual Exploitation is a distressing subject and it is natural that few wish to talk about it. Some believe that CSE does not happen in their area. The truth is it does happen.

Before I go on, you might want to refresh yourself on what is CSE by reading this previous post HERE.

We all must do everything within our powers to prevent this abhorrent crime. Doing nothing to tackle CSE is to fail our young people, as was shown in the Rotherham Report. If we really want to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation we all need to be honest that is does happen and only after we acknowledge this, then we can tackle this crime.

It is also wrong to say CSE is committed by males on females. It is also females on males and same sex incidents. Though the media often narrows this down on male on female.

The only way that CSE can be prevented and tackled effectively is through local agencies, particularly the Police and Children’s Social Care and Health agencies working together. The CSE Forums bring together professionals to discuss suspicion, allegation and evidence of concern that children are at risk of or have experienced sexual exploitation.

The multi-agency Local Safeguarding Children Board has responsibility for overseeing agencies and checking that everything that can be done is being done to keep children as safe as we can. They hold us all to account.

Post the Rotherham Inquiry, there has been a lot of interest in CSE. So much so, Cornwall Council is receiving FOI’s on the subject. A recent one released asked the number of CSE issues in Cornwall for 2014 and the types of CSE. This is in effect now a public document and I feel it is right to share this.

A question asked in a recent FOI is:

What is the total number of children who were referred this year (2014), or became known, to the council amid concerns that they are, or at some stage have been, at risk of sexual exploitation.

The answer is:

31 requests to consider concerns about possible sexual exploitation at the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Forums have been dealt with since 1 January 2014.

For the purposes of understanding the categories of concern discussed at the multi-agency Forums in 2014 theymay be described as follows:

  1. Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns
  2. Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for ‘gifts’ including alcohol/drugs

  3. Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

  4. Suspicion, allegation or evidence of a young person meeting a person believed to be grooming

  5. Suspicion, allegation or evidence of sexual activity/assault arising from 1, 2, 3 or 4.

And here are the Summary of Concerns in 2014:

Female 14 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 14 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 15 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 14 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 14 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of sexual activity/assault arising from 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Female 13 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 14 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of a young person meeting a person believed to be grooming

Female 15 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Male 17 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of sexual activity/assault arising from 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Female 15 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of a young person meeting a person believed to be grooming

Female 14 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 16 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Male 17 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 19 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Male 15 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Male 16 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 16 – Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs

Female 15 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Male 17- Suspicion, allegation or evidence of online/face to face grooming

Female 16 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of a young person meeting a person believed to be grooming

Male 16 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 17 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 15 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of sexual activity/assault arising from 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Male 16 -Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 15 -Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 14 – Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs

Female 16 – Missing and/or suspicion of association with other young persons/adults where there are concerns

Female 14 – Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs

Male 15 – Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs

Female 17 – Suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs

Male 17 – Suspicion, allegation or evidence of a young person meeting a person believed to be grooming plus suspicion or allegation of coercion/sexual favours within a relationship in return for gifts, including alcohol/drugs.

Finally, If you have concerns that a child you know may be at risk of CSE please contact the MARU without delay:

Main public number – 0300 1231 116

Secure email address is: MultiAgencyReferralUnit@cornwall.gcsx.gov.uk

Intake (non-secure) email address is: cscintake@cornwall.gov.uk

Let’s do all we can to protect our children.

Cornwall and its partners tackling the abhorrent crime of child sexual exploitation.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is an abhorrent crime. There is no excuse for child sexual exploitation and we as a society should do everything we can to eradicate Child sexual exploitation. The findings in the Rotherham Inquiry are a national disgrace. For anyone who has read the full report will find it sickening the scale of the abuse and the complete failure of the system. There are no excuses for this failure.

I have been asked as Lead Member for Children Service in Cornwall assurances that our children in Cornwall are safe, and no such problems are occurring here, and that there are safeguards regularly checked and monitored to make sure that they remain safe. My answer to this question is:

I can give assurances that we are doing everything we can within our powers, in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Constabulary to detect possible child sexual exploitation and to take robust action where there is evidence of it.

Whilst I cannot give total assurances that child sexual exploitation does not exist in Cornwall, I can give total assurances that if sich abuse came to light, we would take immediate and robust action in conjunction with out police partners. We would not seek to deny or minimise it, as appears was the case in Rotherham. We would not stand by and do nothing as appears to have been the case in Rotherham.

For those who might not fully understand what child sexual exploitation is, I will explain. Child sexual exploitation is a horrendous crime which destroys lives. It may involve young people receiving ‘something’ (for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities. Those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

CSE is a complex crime and the media focus on particular cases can help to perpetuate some of the stereotypes that exist. The danger of a narrow focus on one particular form of CSE is that attention can be diverted from crimes which do not appear to match that model, with the risk of victims not receiving the help they need. Contrary to popular misconception, CSE is not limited to any particular geography, ethnicity, gender or social background. The evidence increasingly shows that it is a widespread problem and no one should assume that it does not happen in their area.

There are many “models” of CSE; the grooming and sexual exploitation of young people can take many different forms. It can be carried out by individuals (“lone perpetrators”), by street gangs or by groups. It can be motivated by money (“commercial exploitation”) or by factors not related to financial gain, such as sexual gratification. No child can legally consent to their own abuse, even if they are 16 or 17. Sometimes young people do not realise or accept they are a victim, or at risk, of CSE.

The majority of young people who experience CSE are not living in care. However, looked after children account for a disproportionate number of victims and can be particularly vulnerable. There is also a significant link between missing children and child sexual exploitation.

The a further question should be what are we doing. Here are just of the few things we in Cornwall with our partners are doing to eradicate this crime.

A South West Peninsula Protocol & Strategy has been developed to support a consistent approach to child sexual exploitation across Devon and Cornwall. Identifying child sexual exploitation requires a proactive approach to information and intelligence gathering and sharing, so that patterns of abuse and the form that it takes, can be identified locally and on a larger scale.

It is vital that information is shared between agencies and to ensure this happens multi-agency Missing Children & CSE Forums are convened every month across the three areas, East, Mid and West, of the County. These are well established and share information about CSE and Missing Children. The Forums are overseen by the Missing Children & CSE Strategic Group which is now a sub-group of the Safeguarding Children Board.

There is a significant correlation between children who are sexually exploited and those who go missing or run away.   To ensure their safety, a Return Home Interview is undertaken with the child, on their return home or to care placement. The interview can identify if they are at risk of sexual exploitation.

To identify themes and trends, prevent, disrupt and reduce the vulnerability of children to being sexually exploited, data is collated on gender, age, ethnicity, locality, etc. If a child has been identified as being at risk of, or is being sexually exploited, a risk assessment is undertaken and a multi-agency meeting convened, where a safety plan is agreed. This enables agencies to work together with the child and their family.

Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising and Update Sessions have been delivered to professionals working in universal, targeted and specialist services.   CSE Advanced Training multi-agency sessions are being delivered at four venues across Cornwall in October 2014. CSE Awareness Sessions have also been delivered to Local Authority foster carers, and further sessions are planned. Awareness training will be extended to others who come into contact with young people at risk of CSE, such as the tourist industry, taxi drivers, housing workers, maintenance workers, etc.

More recently, a third sector organisation has secured funding from the Ministry of Justice to scope a project to support children who are being, or at risk of being sexually exploited.   It is envisaged that further collaborative work will be developed with the voluntary and community sector so that they can play a key role in identifying, addressing and seeking help with suspected child sexual exploitation.

The message is clear, doing nothing to stop CSE is not acceptable on any level.