A total of 170 referrals have been made to the town’s child sexual exploitation team since the beginning of the year, according to new figures released by Doncaster council.
In January this year, Doncaster set up a new multi-agency Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) team, made up of social workers, police, health and child care experts, to do more together to tackle CSE.
The team has been focussing on three key areas of work – prevention of exploitation, protection of children and young people and pursuing offenders.
Since January 2014 and until last month, the number of referrals where concern was raised around CSE was 170.
Of these, 123 have been dealt with and closed, 47 are active and being investigated.
67 per cent of the referrals were originated by the police, 25 per cent by social care and the remaining eight percent from health, schools/colleges or other sources.
Both the police and agencies are disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators and using legal powers to prevent contact with potential victims through on the spot visits to properties and warning notices. This year there have been 15 criminal prosecutions for CSE offences.
The work of the CSE and that of the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board (DSCB) is highlighted in a report to Doncaster Council’s Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel.
The panel will hear next week that there have also been more than 200 training and awareness raising sessions held for professionals, young people and their parents around CSE since the start of the year. This included advice on staying safe on line and identifying abusive relationships. Every secondary school in the borough now has a trained Child Exploitation and On-line Protection (CEOP) ambassador who has been trained by the CSE team.
Young people themselves are also being asked on how they would want to be involved in combatting CSE and raising awareness with their peers and the wider community.
This work forms part of DSCB’s three-year CSE strategy, published in 2013, which is regularly refreshed and part of an ‘assurance review’ by the independent chair of DCSB.
The ‘assurance review’ was undertaken in the light of recent national reports and the important recommendations from the Jay inquiry into CSE.
John Harris, DSCB’s independent chair, is author of the ‘assurance review’. He said the board regularly assessed its response to CSE as part of its safeguarding work to help keep children safe and well in the borough. It is a normal part of any safeguarding board’s work to do such a review when important reports are published.
“It is vital that we assess where we are at any given time and recent events in Rotherham have given us another opportunity to do so. We’ve held a mirror up to ourselves as a multi-agency board in how we are tackling child sexual exploitation in Doncaster,” said Mr Harris, who has been the independent chair since January 2014.
“It was right that we do this. Whilst we are not complacent and know there is more that needs to be done to tackle this serious issue, we know we have made real improvements in the last 12 months, including how we work together as a team of agencies and with the local community to ensure CSE is at the top of everyone’s agenda. The nature of this particular abuse is under-reported in Doncaster as indeed it is nationally but what is clear is that we must all remain vigilant. ”
DSCB has also set up a CSE and Missing Children group to focus on targeted work to tackle key areas such as working in the community, early identification, children in care and awareness raising.
Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel chair, Cllr Rachel Hodson, added: “Keeping our children safe and having effective measures to tackle child sexual exploitation are absolutely vital. This assurance review gives us a realistic health check on where we are as a borough, the improvements that have been made in 2014 and what we need to continue to focus on in the future.”