An article in the Guardian following the publication of the report Time to listen – a joined-up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children found that whilst there were improvements in the ways agencies are tackling child sexual exploitation there are still areas of concern, particularly around the sharing of information.
Ofsted along with the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation looked at how the police, probation services, youth offending teams, health services and local safeguarding children boards dealt with child sexual exploitation in central Bedfordshire, Croydon, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, and south Tyneside.
Inspectors found that agencies were better at tackling child sexual exploitation, with systematic communication between agencies improving the help victims received.
But gaps remain, according to the report. Police did not always identify children who ran away from home as being at high risk of exploitation, risk assessments were inconsistent and interviews with returning children were not always carried out.
The inspectors also found that exploited children were still sometimes forced to tell the story of their abuse to several different adults. In one case a child had five separate appointments in one week with different professionals, risking “the child feeling overwhelmed and disengaging from those who were trying to support them,” the report states.
An NSPCC spokesman said while improvements were welcomed, good practice had to be followed in every area of the country. “This worrying report exposes a patchy care system where all too often agencies are not working together, some frontline staff don’t understand what child sexual exploitation is, and professionals aren’t always sharing information,” he said. “When a child’s safety hangs in the balance, it is crucial that agencies all come together to catch them before they slip through the net.”
Gary Pettengell, CEO and Founder of ECINS said “it is crucial that agencies are able to securely share information to assist in the safeguarding of children, adults and vulnerable persons. ECINS is being used in a number of counties by police and their partners to assist in the management of child sexual exploitation. The system records offenders’ trigger factors and sends automatic notifications to alert practitioners to issues of importance and partnerships are able to search a substantial national database of profiles from multi-agency sources that may not appear on any existing police databases.
ECINS can act simply as a sign posting tool highlighting who is working or involved with an individual or family, this is especially useful for schools or organisations who wish to see if a child is already known to agencies. It can also be used as a complete case management system. An important point to note is that the comprehensive access permissions mean that sensitive information can be ‘locked’ down and not seen by anyone other than selected staff within the partnership.”