Birmingham Council has recently released a report into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) entitled “We Need to Get it Right”. Birmingham Councillor, Anita Ward, chaired the committee. The report focussed on areas that need to be strengthened in the way Birmingham City Council prevents and deals with CSE. This was a proactive investigation and could not be more timely, given the prolific reports of abuse within communities such as Rotherham.
The report found that there were “horrifying examples of abuse in the city”and identified that at least 132 children in Birmingham are suffering from or vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Children in care and members of gangs were groups recognised as being particularly at risk. One case study detailed how a girl was subject to multiple rapes as part of an initiation into a gang. However, the report stressed that:
“exploitation can happen to anybody irrespective of where you live or your family circumstances.”
The report also noted the importance of breaking the stereotype of a“typical” groomer, saying that they are not likely to be a “dirty old man in a mac”. Instead they will probably be friendly, a good communicator, manipulative and clever.
Raising awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation
Throughout the report, recommendations were made to establish more awareness about CSE amongst groups in the community including local businesses, schools, parents and young people. Helpful training had been provided for hotels and their staff on the signs that CSE may be taking place in a hotel. For instance, they were told to look out for:
- guests who do not have any luggage or ID;
- a number of men visiting a room at regular intervals; or
- guests with a local address renting a room.
Child Centred Approach
The need for a child centred approach, rather than resource based, was also raised by the report. This included recommendations for an out of hours service for young people with concerns to make contact. It also emphasised the need for building long-term relationships between children and professionals. As a result, continuity is needed to build trust with young people who have been exploited and have difficulty trusting authority figures. The report also highlights the importance of professionals engaging the young people they are trying to help, and involving them in the process.
The recent Ofsted report into CSE noted that high profile court cases lead to action by the relevant local authority to try to ensure that past failings are not repeated.