Agenda Item No. 7
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 9th October 2017
Report of the Director of Social Services
Child Sexual Exploitation
Purpose of the Report
- To advise Scrutiny Committee of the current situation regarding the approach taken to tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in the Vale of Glamorgan.
That Scrutiny Committee:
- Notes the content of the report.
- Refers this report to Cabinet for their consideration.
Reason for the Recommendations
1&2 That all elected Members are informed about how the Council is carrying out its duties to identify, reduce and eradicate the risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) within the Local Authority area.
- The sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 18 is illegal under Section 65(1) of the Children Act 2004.
- Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves abusive situations, contexts and relationships where they receive 'something' (e.g. affection, gifts, money, food, accommodation, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.
- The main characteristics of CSE can be summarised as follows:
- Perpetrator/s manipulating children and young people into sexual activities.
- The perpetrator/s exercising some power over the victim.
- The perpetrator/s will often using violence and/or intimidation.
- The perpetrator/s exchanging material and/or emotional gifts such as money or affection for sexual favours.
- The victim is vulnerable in one or more ways.
- The victim may be unable to see or to acknowledge that she/he is being groomed or abused.
- The victim may appear to agree to the relationship or to the abusive behaviour.
- Due to the fact that definitions and perceptions of CSE have changed, it is difficult to be certain about the true nature and scale of such abuse in Wales. CSE is not limited to any particular geographical area, ethnic or social background.
- Research by Barnardo's in Wales over the last 10 years shows that there were significantly more known cases of children and young people being sexually exploited in 2013/14 than in 2005. More children and young people are also being identified as being at significant risk of CSE.
- Predominantly, CSE has been a hidden issue and relatively few victims were willing to speak out about their abuse. This makes it still difficult to gauge the true scale of the problem. Often CSE victims do not realise the abusive nature of their relationship with the perpetrator/s or may feel complicit in the abuse, believing that they are being rewarded in some way. Some are also reluctant to speak out about their abuse for fear of being criminalised or not believed. We know from research that boys are less likely than girls to disclose experiences of CSE, making it even more difficult to detect.
- The All Wales Child Protection Procedures 2008 identified the risks of Child Sexual Exploitation to children and young people and gave guidance on the process and actions required by professionals in responding to such situations. In 2011, the Welsh Government published statutory guidance, underpinned by a dedicated child sexual exploitation protocol within the All Wales Child Protection Procedures. This approach ensures a standardised, multi-agency response whenever child sexual exploitation is identified; it is based around applying the Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework (SERAF) tool developed by Barnardo's Cymru.
- Following publication of statutory guidance "Safeguarding Children: Working Together under the Children Act 2004", Councils were required to establish Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).
- The objectives of an LSCB are to:
- protect children within its area who are experiencing, or are at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm, and
- prevent children within its area from becoming at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm.
- The Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff established LSCBs in 2006; these merged as one Regional Safeguarding Children Board in October 2013. The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan RSCB brings together senior representatives from each of the main agencies and professions responsible for safeguarding children. In Wales, the statutory responsibility for establishing the RSCB rests with the local Children's Services authority.
- The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 introduced a strengthened, robust and effective partnership approach to safeguarding. The Part 7 Guidance for the Act sets out clear statutory responsibilities for local agencies, including Councils, in relation to safeguarding children (and adults).
- The Welsh Government has published the "All-Wales National Action Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation". It sets out a framework and minimum standards that Safeguarding Children Boards and partner agencies, collectively and individually, should work towards and build on in order to:
- prevent and protect children and young people from sexual exploitation.
- provide responsive, appropriate and consistent support to those identified as being subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation.
- contribute to identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators.
- Councils play a crucial, statutory role in safeguarding children, including tackling child sexual exploitation. However, they cannot do this alone. It needs the cooperation of the wider community and partner agencies. Councils can use their links with police, schools, health professionals, and community and faith groups to highlight the signs and ensure people know where to turn if they have concerns. Child sexual exploitation is a difficult and unpleasant subject to discuss but having these conversations is crucial to effective action. Members will be aware of the independent report by Professor Alexis Jay into the handling of CSE by social services and police in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. It is highly critical of "collective failures" of political and officer leadership.
- There have been similar concerns expressed about other places such as Derby, Oxford, Bristol, Telford and Peterborough. These all demonstrate the key role performed by the Leader of the Council, the lead Member for Children's Services, scrutiny committees and all councillors in questioning and challenging responses to CSE in their local area. Subsequently, the LGA produced a resource pack for councils on good practice in tackling CSE. The Social Services Improvement Agency in Wales has issued three workbooks to support elected members in understanding various aspects of safeguarding - Safeguarding Adults, Corporate Parenting and Child Sexual Exploitation. Child Sexual Exploitation - It Can and Does Happen Here can be found on the following link http://www.ssiacymru.org.uk/resource/160505-cse.pdf
- In December 2015, the Welsh Government published an education resource pack to help safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation. It includes tools to help education practitioners to talk openly to children and young people about the dangers of sexual exploitation and risky behaviours that might put young people in harm's way.
- In March 2016, the Minister for Health and Social Services issued a written statement regarding CSE and an All Wales National Action Plan. It was stressed that: "The Welsh Government is clear that child sexual exploitation is a crime, which requires coordinated action by all safeguarding partners. Tackling this form of child abuse is a priority for this government."
- Child sexual exploitation is a key priority area for the Cardiff and Vale RSCB this year. It has established a specific sub-group, led by the South Wales Police and including representatives from the NHS, probation and social services to address operational issues. National developments continue under the new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse launched by the UK Home Office and led by Barnardo's. The Centre will become the authoritative source of research and knowledge on tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation, and harmful sexual behaviour.
Relevant Issues and Options
- To date, there has been only one major case in the Vale of Glamorgan where multiple abuse was suspected - this was historical abuse and the investigation took place over a period of years. It involved a significant number of alleged victims, most of whom were resident in other Local Authority areas and all of whom are now adults. Several regional learning events have taken place following a Practice Review. Children potentially at risk and those who may have been abused are safe. The RSCB has carried out a Child Practice Review to see what lessons can be learned. Two senior managers from the Vale of Glamorgan were members of the Child Practice Review Panel.
- On the evidence currently available, most children who have been the subject of CSE strategy meetings since we started collecting local data have not been victims of organised abuse. We cannot be at all complacent and considerable efforts are being made to tackle CSE in our area. The Cardiff and Vale LSCB has established a sub-group, led by the South Wales Police and including representatives from the NHS, probation and social services, to address operational issues. There is also a pan-Wales group established by the Children's Commissioner, which is looking at areas requiring national policy and leadership.
- At a local level, we comply fully with the All Wales Child Protection Procedures in addressing cases of suspected CSE. Where children/young people are considered to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, an assessment of risk using the Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework (SERAF) tool is undertaken. Assessments with risk scores under 11 are discussed with the Principal Officer working in this Council and preventative measures are considered. Risk scores of 11 and upwards progress to a CSE multi-agency strategy meeting. Cases which are seen to indicate 'significant risk' are referred automatically to the Directorate's Principal Officer Safeguarding (Children) who convenes and chairs a multi-agency strategy meeting under the All Wales Child Protection Procedures.
- To ensure that we are giving due consideration to children or young people about whom there are concerns but where there is not a 'significant risk' score on SERAF, we now have in place a process whereby any agency or professional body may refer a case for consideration about whether there are agreed CSE concerns. If this is the case, the ensuing assessment will consider these issues and the case is referred to the Principal Officer who considers the level of intervention required. This might range from the provision of support services to proceeding with a strategy meeting involving relevant professionals. In addition, the new processes allow us to capture more effectively data about the number of children where there are sexual exploitation concerns.
- There have been 24 initial CSE strategy meetings between April 2016 and March 2017, relating to 23 children one child having been closed and then re-referred. There were 9 review meetings for 9 children carried over from March 2016 with ongoing work identified; the number of review meetings in the period April 2016 to March 2017 was 38 relating to 22 children. Of the 24 children referred during April 2016 and March 2017 4 were boys. The age range of the children is 12 to 17, most common are 14 - 16. The response to each young person has included:
- consideration of any criminal matters by South Wales Police;
- consideration of the need to use child protection procedures; and
- support to be provided by social services and voluntary organisations as these children are regarded as being particularly vulnerable.
- Where ongoing concerns have been identified, review strategy meetings take place for each young person. As stated most alleged victims are aged 14-16 and they share common characteristics such as poor attendance at school, low self-esteem, self-harm/suicidal thoughts and inappropriate use of the internet and mobile phones. Suspects are usually male and aged 19-40.
- Previously the NSPCC provided a service in respect of children and young people at risk of CSE however for the last year this service is no longer available. The work that the NSPCC are now undertaking is preventative work by attending schools etc. or where low level risk has been identified. At the other end of the spectrum they are dealing with children and young people who have been subject to incidents of abuse that have progressed through a police investigation and the courts.
- The South Wales Police have established a CSE team in each of their Basic Command Units (BCU). They are staffed by a Detective Sergeant and two Detective Constables dealing specifically with children and young people who are at risk of CSE. In this role, the officers attend all the CSE strategy meetings in the Vale and Bridgend (both areas being part of the same Basic Command Unit). The Officers are now based in Bridgend with the Missing person's team. Additionally there is a worker from Barnardos who is on attachment with the team who undertakes visits to all children who go missing, where there are CSE concerns.
- The CSE Taskforce meetings established in May 2015 have been expanded. Those in attendance are the Detective Sargent CSE team, Vale Safeguarding staff, Education, the Practitioner Manager for the Social Services Duty Team, a Youth Service representative, a Youth Offending Team representative, Probation the Looked After Children Nurse, the Safeguarding Nurse, a representative of the 15 Plus Team in Children's Services, a Licensing Officer, if there are relevant concerns and Llamau. The meetings take place every other month here in the Vale and on a monthly basis in the Bridgend area (because of the higher numbers of children identified in that area).
- CSE is an area where significant developments are happening at pace. The Police have developed a sophisticated data base/problem profile which pinpoints links between children at risk and suspected perpetrators of abuse across the Force's area. This real-time intelligence allows all agencies to target work to protect potential victims, to investigate criminal acts and to disrupt the activity of perpetrators. The strategy meetings are an effective means for the Police to gather both formal and 'soft' intelligence on perpetrators within the area, thus ensuring that local information about individuals, activities and locations are shared and monitored. Early information from the system indicates that CSE issues occur more often in adjoining Local Authority areas and that, outside the Vale, there is some association with specific geographical locations or groups.
- The South Wales Police received a grant enabling them to employ workers from Barnardo's to 'de-brief' children and young people who have been missing and where there are CSE concerns. The workers look to try and establish where the children and young people have been when missing and with whom they have been associating. The worker has also undertaken sessional work with identified young people for up to 6 sessions working specifically to raise their awareness of the risks and their vulnerability of being exploited. The CSE team to which the Barnardo's worker is attached has since joined with the Missing Persons team and are as stated previously now situated in Bridgend.
- One of the challenges for professionals working with children and young people who are most vulnerable is helping them to acknowledge that they are at risk of being exploited. Schools in the area are delivering a programme to children, which is designed to raise awareness, especially regarding online abuse which involves their peers. Safeguarding training of both Teaching staff and school Governors ensure that they are aware of concerns relating to CSE as well as safeguarding in general.
- The RSCB have been working to produce a new CSE strategy which will consolidate emerging best practice. Both Local Authorities have developed separate strategies, to reflect differences in referral processes, while sharing their knowledge and experience, and both are operational. Welsh Assembly Government has also commissioned work by Barnardo's to undertake a review of the present CSE guidance and procedures. The remit of the person designated to undertake the review is that she will make contact with every Authority in Wales and meet with those responsible specifically for the management of CSE work along with partner agencies both statutory and the private sector. The person concerned has already met with the relevant people in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and indicated at that time that the work was on a definite time schedule for completion.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- The growing volume of work in this area has been managed to date by using existing resources, sharing responsibilities across relevant organisations (including Local Authorities) and obtaining some grant funding. However, it should be noted that any major investigations are very resource-intensive and cannot be predicted.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- There are no implications for sustainability and climate change within this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- The duties of the Local Authority to ensure that children are properly safeguarded and protected from harm are set out within the legislative framework. Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 imposes a duty on a Local Authority to make arrangements for ensuring that their education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 imposes a duty on Local Authorities to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. In fulfilling its responsibilities, the Local Authority should have effective quality assurance systems in place to ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard and protect children.
- The Welsh Government Guidance, Safeguarding Children; Working together under the Children Act 2004, has been issued in accordance with the Children Act 2004. Under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, it provides the working basis for the All Wales Child Protection Procedures, which reflect the values and principles enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Welsh Government developed these values and principles in Children and Young People: Rights to Action 2004, and adopted core aims and outcomes through which it is committed to work with all children and young people. The key outcome for improving the well-being of children includes the requirement that children live in a safe environment and be protected from harm. The All Wales Child Protection Procedures take account of various legislation, guidance, research and reports.
- Implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 in April 2016 created a duty on all Local Authority staff and Members and relevant partners to report any actual or suspected incidents of abuse or harm. Work is also progressing within Welsh Government to undertake a full review of The Welsh Government Guidance, Safeguarding Children; Working together under the Children Act 2004 and The Wales Interim Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Abuse to comply with all Safeguarding duties within the new Act.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- Some crime and disorder issues could be highlighted as a result of possible CSE activity within the Authority but there are no current implications.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- There are no Equal Opportunity implications within this report.
- The work outlined in this report addresses the following corporate objectives outlined in the Corporate Plan 2016-2020:
- Wellbeing Outcome 4: An Active and Healthy Vale
- Objective 8: Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promote independent living.
Policy Framework and Budget
- This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- This is an issue which affects all areas of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Healthy Living and Social Care
Suzanne Clifton, Head of Service
Ann Williams- Principal Officer, Safeguarding and Performance
Matthew Brown, Interim Operational Manager, Safeguarding
Lance Carver, Director of Social Services