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Councils have been too slow to face up to their responsibilities to prevent child sexual exploitation, according to the inspectors Ofsted.
In a survey into how local authorities are dealing with the sexual exploitation of children, Ofsted finds that the risk of exploitation is still not well understood in many areas. Their report ‘The sexual exploitation of children: it couldn’t happen here, could it?’ was commissioned by Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to ask how well local authorities and partners are working to prevent child sexual exploitation in their area, to offer protection to its victims, and to pursue and prosecute its abusers.
The report includes the views of more than 150 young people, inspection evidence and case examination from eight local authorities, 36 children’s homes inspections, and evidence from Ofsted’s wider body of published inspection reports. Inspectors also spoke to over 200 professionals including elected members, Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) members, plus local authority and partner agency staff.
Inspectors found that local arrangements to tackle sexual exploitation are often underdeveloped, and leadership frequently lacking. Some areas have only begun to address the issue strategically within the last 12 months, despite statutory guidance being issued more than five years ago.
To read the 43-page report visit the Ofsted website.
The regulator did find that in most children’s homes, the standard of record keeping in relation to children who persistently go missing was very good. The report said: “Good record keeping helps to keep children safe. In one good practice example, the inspector noted that detailed records kept by staff, including intelligence about a young person who persistently went missing, were passed to the police who were then able to check CCTV images.”
David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Protecting children from harm is one of the most important things that councils do. While some local authorities are making positive strides to protect young people, it’s clear that others have been too slow to step up to the plate and must do more to stop any cases where children could be at risk.
“This report makes for uncomfortable reading and councils across the country will now be reflecting on its implications and asking questions of their staff to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect each and every child.
“Preventing child sexual exploitation is incredibly complex but local authorities are not going to be able to tackle this vile crime in isolation, it needs to become everyone’s business.
“We need to see better local working with the police and NHS to proactively review the processes used every day to keep children and young people safe. Schools, GP’s surgeries, charities and community groups also have a vital role in identifying and reporting any cases where children could be at risk.
“In addition, councils, communities and parents need to have confidence in the Ofsted inspection regime and its role in protecting children. The LGA has called for an independent review to discover what has gone wrong with the inspectorate. It’s also vital that we move towards a process that is able to properly assess the contribution of all agencies in keeping children safe.
“The exploitation of children for sexual or any other abuse has no place in society. There are lessons in this report for every community and we must all work together to stamp out this awful crime.”