The NWG Response to The Rotherham Inquiry

In response to the Rotherham Report (1)
NWG Network Sheila Taylor MBE CEO
27.08.14 10:15

The NWG Network welcomes the Rotherham Inquiry, which goes along way to highlight the extent of abuse through Child Sexual Exploitation.
Rotherham is not unique in having sexual exploitation in their city, as we have seen through our work over the last few years across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, we see many forms of sexual exploitation But occurring there remains a specific focus on race, when we really should be talking about the crime and the impact on children. There are elements of fear of being accused of being racist, the reality of the cases are that victims often do not make disclosures that allows a reactive investigation. We need to encourage a proactive approach to children and young people that display signs and symptoms through their behaviour. We need to be professionally curious about the drivers to that behaviour and then proactively tackle the causes.

We often see children criminalized for symptoms of sexual exploitation. Our society has to develop a ‘zero tolerance’ to the sexual exploitation of children, It is never acceptable for an adult to have sex with children under the age of 16yrs under any circumstances, that responsibility lies with adults, not on a reliance on our children to say no!
We recently launched the Say Something if you See Something’ campaign to assist communities to promote that zero tolerance.

We have a duty to look for sexual exploitation in all communities, and not concentrate on one model of child sexual exploitation and risk not seeing others who are exploited in equally horrendous manners. We continually talk about young women and girls, but rarely recognise boys and young men as victims, we have under reporting on young people from BME and LGBT communities. We really are failing this cohort of young people!

We continue to need to push for a sea change in attitude towards victims of sexual exploitation throughout our communities and professional services, we need to RECOGNISE children and young people, HEAR THEM, AND BELIEVE THEM.

There is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation. It is a vile crime that is perpetrated by a small number of individuals, and abhorred by the vast majority from every ethnic group.
Stereotyping offenders as all from a particular background is likely to perpetuate the problem as is a refusal to acknowledge that a particular group of offenders share a common ethnicity.

How can a child understand the complex consequences to sexual activity and where it may lead?

It is extremely important that we have ‘Healthy Sexual Relationships’ education within all of our schools, that talks about ‘what is consent?’, ‘what does an equal relationship look like’, otherwise how will young people recognize they are in an ‘unhealthy relationship. This should include education for those exploring their sexuality too, who become particularly vulnerable during that time.

We need to be advocating for therapeutic care for the victims of CSE, we simply cannot have young people who have been through the most horrific rapes, violence and assaults left to grow up without helping them recover from this horrific trauma. These young people risk being damaged adults without the proper intervention with a warped sense of what a healthy relationship should look like.

Prevention and early intervention in cases of children at risk of sexual exploitation is essential and all local authorities must ensure that there is sufficient funding for prevention within the budget of any multi-agency team tasked with tackling child sexual exploitation.

We have worked closely with Rotherham CSE strategy over the past year and are encouraged by their commitment to tackle the issue of child sexual exploitation, so pleased with their journey we awarded them the ‘Longest Journey under Difficult Conditions’ Award in March this year, this recognized that professionals were managing the historical inappropriate response to cse victims, whilst organising themselves to improve their response today. What needs to be reassured now is that the strategy they have worked so hard to develop is implemented at an operational level.
Rotherham Abuse Inquiry (2)
Sheila Taylor MBE CEO NWG Network
28th August 2014

Following the launch of the Rotherham Abuse Inquiry report released on Tuesday (26.08.14), it is interesting to see the agendas that are taking precedent in the media. The focus is predominantly on two areas, the fear of being seen as racist or the call for heads to roll.

My frustration is, whilst these issues are worthy of debate, we have heard very little debate about the service these young people received, how they were subject to horrific trauma and rape. What do we have in this country that assists young people to recover from such abuse? What time and resources are we investing to ensure we get that right now?

“We knew what the issues were but didn’t know how to respond to them nor did we invest in resources to tackle the issues?” – Will this be the next debate?

The discussion about people fearing to be seen as racist acting as a barrier to tackling the issue is perhaps valid in some elements. However is there any realisation that protecting vulnerable young people and investigating a crime when the victim cannot make a disclosure, due to the coercion and fear of the consequences from the perpetrator, is extremely difficult and complex. The perception that young people are making a choice without professionals recognising the controls that perpetrators have over them, hampers professionals views of the young people’s situations and therefore negatively impacts upon the response that a child receives.

Many children may go willingly to a location to be with perpetrators, but they do not go willingly to be raped and abused. We often get confused about the issue of consent when we discuss child sexual exploitation (CSE). Professionals often do not recognise the consequences to a child saying “no” and what the impact might be i.e. violence or threats of violence to the young person or their family, physical, sexual and emotional trauma, blackmail………….

We definitely fail to recognise boys and young men, BME, LGBT and those young people with special education needs as vulnerable and potential victims of CSE.

Even when a young person increases their vulnerability by posting inappropriate messages on websites or social media sites, it remains the adult’s responsibility to say no, not the child’s. It is inappropriate to assume that the child can make these choices.

Following the journey of Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards response to tackling Child Sexual Exploitation has been enlightening in terms of how things went wrong and how hard people have been working today to try to address some of the issues. Many professionals within Rotherham Children’s Services and South Yorkshire Police have been developing their response over the past year to improve their strategy to ensure vulnerable young people are identified, not only by disclosures but by behaviour and lifestyle, as many services across the UK do. All the time the development has been ongoing, they have also had to carry the responsibility of failings of other professionals in their position previously. They have been scrutinised by media and government in a way other towns and cities have not been, despite their recent efforts to improve their responses. We awarded the ‘Longest Journey Under Difficult Circumstances’ award to the Rotherham CSE Team at our Awards Ceremony in March 2014, for their commitment to ‘get it right now’ against a backdrop of negative national media that painted them as ‘beset by poor practice and historical inadequacies’, giving little recognition that the current team were new and carry a backlash of negativity on behalf of their predecessor’s. Whilst answering to historical inadequacies they have worked tirelessly to improve services and are one of the best examples of current practice we have seen. What is extremely difficult is to develop responses when there is such scrutiny on every move and the current CSE team we have been working with have achieved a lot in a short space of time. It is important to recognise progress and encourage those who are working to put wrongs right, however they do now need to ensure that the strategy everyone has worked so hard to develop is implemented successfully at an operational level, ensuring there is not a disconnect between strategy and operational delivery – yet another set of challenges for them to tackle.

Whilst we understand that professionals need to take responsibility and be accountable for their previous failings we should also be mindful that there are dedicated and committed professionals currently working within Rotherham to ensure systematic change and improvement for young people affected by CSE. It is often difficult to ensure consistency in responses for young people when there is a change in professional posts within the children’s workforce particularly when these professionals have recently made changes for the better
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Rotherham Inquiry (3)
NWG Network Sheila Taylor MBE CEO
Some of the Rotherham Inquiry debate is turning to our legislation, and whether changes are required ….. Sarah Champion MP completed a Parliamentary inquiry in to the effectiveness of the legislation to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and found there was no “compelling evidence which clearly made a case that justice cannot currently be served due to the lack of a specific offence.” (See Link Below)

This continuing debate leads us to the issue of improving awareness not just in communities, businesses, retail, hotel & leisure, music and fashion industries of exploitative relationships. We also need to raise and improve awareness in statutory services across the sector, not just our children’s services but including electricians, gas workers, rent officials, licensing officers, etc. These professionals, through their work, may see evidence of sexual exploitation if they know what to look for and how to report suspicions.

We need our music industry to veto certain inappropriate lyrics and music that promotes abuse and sexual violence. We need to promote a zero tolerance attitude to sexual violence within our society at all opportunities, sounds sensible, but we don’t currently do it. We turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour and comments, music lyrics and news articles without significant challenge.

There is a need for increased prevention work, covering the education within all schools – mainstream, public, special provisions and other alternative learning environments of what healthy sexual relationships are. Awareness is bigger than just communities; for example prevention also includes licensing officers in both Local Authorities and police forces to be vigilant to signs of sexual exploitation within businesses and properties.

Training is an absolute necessity for frontline staff in all agencies that are dealing with children and families. Without the ability to identify potential victims at an early stage we are increasing the likelihood of them being subjected to serious abuse and exploitation in the future. To support this recommendation, which is also stated in all the CSE reviews, inquiries, and guidance, we have, with the support of Comic Relief, developed a multi-disciplinary e-learning training programme that has received very good feedback for its content and presentation.

One of the difficulties we constantly come across is the reality that many victims do not think they are being exploited or consider or identify themselves as victims, and are afraid of their abusers therefore not actually making disclosures of abuse that authorities can act upon.

There is a great need to proactively respond to behaviour and indicators of sexual exploitation at a much earlier stage than we currently do, to work with the victim, to develop trust, to speak out with confidence that enables local authorities to be proactive in prevention, protection, disruption, investigation and prosecution.

This case highlights the need to promote more intervention programmes to work with potential perpetrators before they become actively involved in CSE in all its forms

One of our biggest frustrations is around the risk assessments process and review of risk assessments.

Organisations often risk assess to cover the minimum response required from services rather than the actual risk to the victim. The focus of the risk drifts from the child to the organisation. We often see statutory organisations reducing a risk assessment to a lower level than the organisations that have the trust, engagement and luxury of time to understand the real situation. These are often voluntary sector organisations outside of the statutory services that advocate for stronger responses but have no statutory authority to enforce them. It is also important that regular reviews are conducted, as risk levels will change rapidly in cases of CSE.

In multi agency settings, victims are described as at ‘high risk’ of sexual exploitation, when in reality that victim is being ‘significantly harmed’ at that current time. Talking about ‘at risk’ often indicates this is something that can be prevented and we develop the response as a prevention plan, when actually the plan should be addressing the significant harm taking place at that current time.

Budget restraints remain a significant barrier to ensure a young person is in a place of safety when sexual exploitation is happening, meeting costs of placing victims in appropriate residential safe provision, that understand and respond appropriately to the needs of exploited victims is always a struggle.

Rotherham Inquiry (4)
Sheila Taylor MBE
CEO NWG Network
30th August 2014

We have been closely watching the turn of debate over the past few days regarding the Rotherham Inquiry and it is very good to see so many from the Pakistani Community coming forward to condemn the acts of a few within their community. Hopefully this will become part of the ‘Say Something if you See Something’ Campaign and encourage those who know about such acts to come forward and speak out to prevent further abuse. We look forward to working with Community Leaders should they wish support from ourselves at all. Of course we must also remember that there are Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) victims from a wide range of black and minority ethnic communities who find it extremely difficult to come forward who also need support to speak out and find help

Lets not forget that the focus of victims is largely on young women and the research findings released this week carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), and UCL (University College London) with support from Barnardo’s and led by Dr Ella Cockbain reminds us that as many as 1 in 3 CSE referrals are boys.

I still find it very difficult that there is extremely little focus on the victims and the support that needs to be put into place for them now and less focus also on the parents of these victims and the need to support them and the trauma they and their families have experienced. Surely all this public debate and discussion will have an impact on some of the victims, with past trauma’s surfacing again.

Our report ‘If You Shine A Light, You Will Probably Find It’ highlights some of the physical and mental wellbeing that affects victims of sexual exploitation. Unfortunately we do not see much support for the health professionals who need to pick up these victims, but we shall shortly be releasing our toolkit to assist health professional identify indicators of CSE and how to respond appropriately, alongside offering practitioners assistance to manage cases should they require it through our specialist team.

Rotherham has included health professional in their CSE training and in the development of the strategy, but as always we need to ensure this is well implemented into operational practice that works well.

Prevention and appropriate interventions are key to the needs of Rotherham moving forward now and we hope to continue to work to assist them in that difficult journey.
Rotherham Inquiry (5)
Sheila Taylor CEO NWG Network

Following a rather hectic round of media interviews today (02.09.14), I am now seeing the focus change to discussions around holding another inquiry in to “what went wrong” How can this be right?

In 16 recently published reports, inquiries, serious case reviews and research documents there have been over 400 recommendations, so many that professionals were working from one or two reports‘ recommendations and found it frustrating that there were so many reports to look through; to assist we were asked to summarise all the recommendations into one document. The resulting NWG Recommendation Summary document contains 30 pages worth of actions to implement.
How can another report give us any further information that has not been included in these previous reports? Recommendations about ‘information sharing’, intelligence gathering’ ‘good reporting’ ‘seeing, listening to and believing the children’, ‘education in schools around healthy relationships’, ‘training all professionals who come into contact with children in their work place’, ‘better child protection plans’, and ‘good therapeutic support for those traumatised by their experiences’ and so the list goes on………

All inquiries are costly, time consuming and bring direct services away from protecting the very children they should be protecting there and then.

Budget restraints across all sectors impacts on young peoples support projects across the UK. Projects are facing staffing reductions or worse still closure of services that work directly with young people sexually exploited. These projects are the very ones that have, compared to statutory services; the luxury of time and space to build trust and good relationships with sexually exploited victims who are terrified and unable to speak out.

Surely it is now more efficient to spend on robust implementation of budgets that go directly to support those who find, engage with, and support sexually exploited victim’s who are going through the immense trauma of the court system, where they are often re-victimised.

I really do plea for ‘ring fenced’ funding to directly support these victims, to assist in being the advocate for the young person without an AGENDA, other than the victims’ welfare, or have we really lost all common sense!!!

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2 thoughts on “The NWG Response to The Rotherham Inquiry

  1. Pingback: Child Sexual Exploitation: Groundhog day | Comment and analysis

  2. Pingback: Child Sexual Exploitation: Groundhog day | PolicyBristol Hub

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