Claire Pascoe presented the report which outlined the actions being undertaken by Thurrock Social Care in their response to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and associated exploitative harm. The service had taken significant steps to identify and tackle CSE through awareness training within the Council and local community. For young people and children who decline to engage with statutory services, Operation Goldcrest will, as of April 2019, be piloted to support these young people aged 13 – 18. The pilot is planned to run for 12 to 18 months and if successful, it would be rolled out throughout Essex and potentially nationally. Claire Pascoe recommended that the Committee read the embedded link in paragraph 8.
Councillor Akinbohun queried the percentage of children that confided in the service. Claire Pascoe answered that the statistics were hard to gather because children may confide in different people and help services. People had to be aware of the type of language used towards children and their responses to children who were confiding in them which was what the service was focusing on. This could set the conditions in how children felt in confiding in people.
Councillor Hague asked how information was shared nationally. Responding that the government system had no method to track information, Claire Pascoe went on to say this was a concerning issue. She could only speak on a local level in that the service shared information through the relevant pathways and reported to the National Crime Agency who provided annual statistics around trafficking referrals to the National Referral Mechanism, (NRM), from public bodies, including Local Authorities. Councillor Hague went on to ask what procedures were being looked at to share information nationally. Claire Pascoe answered that the government was aware of the issue and was looking into a solution. There were issues in a procedure particularly in the area of county lines.
The Committee agreed to suspend standing orders to 21.45 to enable the Committee to finish the agenda.
On the figures given on paragraph 3.3.1, Councillor Anderson questioned how the figures had fared historically. Claire Pascoe replied that the given figures was an area to develop on and had appeared to have increased. A CSE assessment tool was used to assess CSE and child criminal exploitation (CCE) and currently, the main point was to ensure risks were spotted and perpetrators were targeted.
On spotting risks, Rory Patterson stated that young social workers were taught to identify the signs of abuse. He went on to say that there was a positivity behind the gathered data as it helped agencies to identify issues and trends which could be joined up to missing children data. Risks were no longer looked at within families only as was the traditional method but instead peer groups, external surroundings and other families had to be looked at. Referring back to an earlier point, Rory Patterson reiterated that safeguarding approaches had to be dynamic and other factors had to be taken into consideration.
Councillor Akinbohun asked how the service could benefit non English speakers. Claire Pascoe explained that translators were used and with the project on raising awareness with hotel staff, interpreters were being considered as local hotels had a diverse employment of staff who spoke different languages. Councillor Akinbohun went on to suggest the service consider employing staff within the service who spoke the same language to ensure trust and to encourage the hotel staff to speak openly with people working within the service. Claire Pascoe answered that this could be considered as the Council had a diverse workforce. Adding to this, Paula Robinson explained that social workers were trained to build relationships and despite cultural and language differences, they were still able to build trust.
The Chair felt it was reassuring for the Council to have a dedicated CSE Officer employed. She went to ask if the service worked together with the LSCP. Alan Cotgrove answered that Claire Pascoe attended MASH meetings and also linked in with the Southend, Essex and Thurrock group and pan Essex. Rory Patterson added that he chaired the gang related group in the Council, the operational arm of which Claire Pascoe also attended.
That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the work being carried out by Children’s Social Care to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation and Missing Children.