Care Quality Commission
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‘Time to listen’: A joined up approach to child sexual exploitation and missing children

Services must do more to protect children and young people from possible sexual exploitation.

Joint inspections between CQC, Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary have found that public services need to better recognise and act on their safeguarding responsibilities when it comes to identifying and responding to possible child sexual exploitation.

Inspections, which spanned a range of services – from healthcare, to the police, probation and youth offending teams – have uncovered that despite there being some evidence of good practice, more needs to be done to ensure all children and young people receive consistently good support from the agencies that they depend upon.

The report reveals that while many professionals were committed to engaging with children, listening to their views and understanding their experiences, health communities appear to have an inadequate understanding of the signs of child sexual exploitation. There is variation in practice, which means that the signs are not being acted upon and that some children have to wait too long to get the help and support they need.

The report concludes that child sexual exploitation can be tackled best when all partners take responsibility for their specific roles, while also working collaboratively.

Professor Ursula Gallagher, Deputy Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care, said: “These inspections have revealed a clear need for healthcare providers to make sure their staff are able to not only identify the possible signs of sexual exploitation in children and young people but also, to have sufficient opportunity to do so. It is important that they are able to work together with relevant partners to prevent further harm and abuse.

“Together with the other inspectorates, we have looked at the range of services across social care, the police and health services, including general practice, A&E, school nursing, sexual health, and mental healthcare.

“The overwhelming concern from our joint review is that understanding of the signs of child sexual exploitation by key frontline healthcare professionals is inadequate. Professionals across the board need the time and capacity to build relationships with their young patients if they are to effectively identify those at risk and help to protect them. When frontline staff are well-trained to use risk assessment checklists and apply their professional knowledge and skill, this makes a real difference to children.

“The healthcare system must recognise and act on its safeguarding responsibilities in this area. If it does not, children and young people will continue to be let down by services that should have their best interests at heart.”

The five joint inspections of child sexual exploitation and missing children took place between February and August 2016. They covered Central Bedfordshire, Croydon, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, and South Tyneside.

Our joint target area inspections with Ofsted, HMIP and HMIC look at specific issues that affect vulnerable children and adults. From October 2016, the agencies will begin their next round of inspections, which will have a particular focus on how health, police and probation services respond to and care for children living with domestic abuse.


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