Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
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Don't leave victims out of mind, out of sight

Don't leave victims out of mind, out of sight

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 29 June 2011

UK National Centre for Child Protection publishes outcome of six month assessment into "on street grooming" and child sexual exploitation

"Child sexual exploitation is child sex abuse - no matter who carries out the act, no matter what the background of the offender. The effects are devastating and abuse can continue into adulthood. We need to focus on that and break down the barriers that stop any child from coming forward. Agencies need the awareness be able to identify the signs of abuse and the services to build a supportive relationship with victims. Vulnerable victims may not present themselves as victims, may be fearful of investigations or the court process and we need to create an environment throughout the whole of the UK where this is no longer the case.

"None of this is easy and none of this is down to one particular structure or sector. It is not an issue that is overly weighted to one particular part of the community and all communities have their part to play. So we must move away from labelling and passing blame. Local professionals face major decisions each day to protect children and major challenges to identify victims of child sexual exploitation as a result of grooming. I hope that our work over the last six months highlights this and shows the complexity of this crime. We have applauded and highlighted best practice - from the police service and local safeguarding boards - and advocate that more needs and can be done to share that practice and to increase that understanding.

"We are all in this together - whether from a national or local perspective, from voluntary or statutory sectors. We all need to work together, share our knowledge, and listen to victims to ensure their voice is heard, and so that offenders are held responsible for this terrible crime."
Safe and Sound Derby work directly with children who or are being, or have been victims of sexual exploitation. Sheila Taylor is leaving the position of CEO of Safe & Sound Derby and is taking up the role of Director of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People from 1 July 2011.

She said:

"We welcome the scrutiny that this thematic assessment has undertaken. It is the first time the issue has been investigated and analysed in this way. It is clear from the findings that the indicators and symptoms of child sexual exploitation are not being recognised and therefore not recorded as such and in particular we feel there is a huge gap in the knowledge of professionals working in particular with those aged between 10 to 18 yrs old.

"However as this assessment so rightly concludes, we must never look any aspect of this issue in isolation and we must do all we can to achieve that vital multi agency working. That is why in my new role as Director of the National Working Group I will ensure that we do all we can to help agencies deliver joined up services, train professionals and share best practice and achieve that vital co-ordination that is so central to meeting the needs of young victims."

Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children's Commissioner, said:

"CEOP's thematic assessment of street grooming and child sexual exploitation is a vital contribution to the evidence base. It will aid our collective thinking and lead to a clearer understanding of what is happening to children in England. However, we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the extent and nature of these distressing and shocking acts of sexual exploitation against children. For our part, supported by Government and partners, we will be launching an Inquiry under our Children Act 2004 powers in the Autumn. We are currently working with experts in this field and children who have experienced sexual exploitation to identify where gaps in knowledge and understanding remain so that we can fully establish the facts before recommending solutions and advice.

"Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have a right to be protected from sexual exploitation. CEOP, the Government and the Office of the Children's Commissioner are taking this very seriously."

Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive for Missing People said:

"CEOP's crucial assessment of the appalling crimes associated with child sexual exploitation is timely
and well judged. Missing People knows all too well that children who go missing are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and this report confirms that fact. We therefore welcome the recommendations to ensure that front line Police, Social Workers and Charities respond effectively to early signs of exploitation, paying particular attention to children who go missing."

The Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) played a key role in the assessment and is a national organisation representing and supporting parents and families of children who have been targeted or are victims of child sexual exploitation. Hilary Willmer is Chair of the Trustees:

"CROP welcomes this important report which highlights effectively the hidden world of child sexual exploitation, and demonstrates the need for much more careful and joined up research.

"The majority of affected children are still living at home and we are pleased that this report does not ignore the important role that families play and the support they need. The emphasis on multi-agency working puts the debate where it needs to be."

'Out of Mind, Out of Sight' makes a number of key recommendations to improve the UK's response to child sexual exploitation. These include:

* Victims and their families should receive support from specialist services throughout the process of disclosure, police investigations and court proceedings, until the risk of sexual exploitation is mitigated. Victim's accounts and experiences should be used to inform agency responses both in designing prevention messages and early interventions - through to the set up of specialist support.

* All LSCBs need to meet their responsibility under current guidance - Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (DCSF 2009) - and ensure that there is a coordinated multi-agency response to this issue and clear and up to date procedures. Each LSCB must assume that sexual exploitation occurs in its area unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

* LSCBs must ensure that children who are at risk can be identified at an early stage across a range of agencies and that there are clear protocols for sharing information. They should ensure that children at risk have a full assessment of their needs and referral to relevant services for intervention and support.

* Given the links between sexual exploitation and other vulnerabilities, LSCBs must ensure that those working or in contact with children who are particularly vulnerable, understand the signs of exploitation and can refer children for tailored support. There should be particular emphasis on foster carers and residential care staff, as well as all front line workers that come into contact with missing children.

* LSCBs should ensure that there is sufficient specialist training for frontline service providers so they are equipped to identify children at risk.

* Each policing team that may come into contact with victims or offenders needs to have an understanding of child sexual exploitation. Training should be provided to appropriate police units and teams and police forces should develop a strategy to ensure that cases of child sexual exploitation are identified and progressed appropriately.

* Children's services must ensure that cases of child sexual exploitation are assessed and responded to appropriately.

* The Crown Prosecution service should review all prosecutions in child sexual exploitation to identify barriers to taking cases forward, and outline best practice in relation to the support available for victims. The CPS should also review recent cases to identify key aspects of the investigation and criminal justice process that can lead to successful prosecution outcomes.

* All front line agencies should develop ways of capturing and recording data relating to known or suspected cases of sexual exploitation. LSCBs should coordinate the development of a template for capturing information which is of use to both police and services for sexually exploited children.

* Police forces should actively gather intelligence and develop regular problem profiles of child sexual exploitation.

Ends

Notes to Editors

Grooming
* The assessment looked at 'localised grooming' often called "on street grooming" whereby children are groomed with gifts, food, drugs, cigarettes or alcohol and then sexually exploited and abused by an offender, having initially met in a location outside their home, usually in a public space (such as a park, cinema or at a friend's house). Offenders often act as a group. Multiple victims and locations of abuse may be involved and victims are often coerced by offenders to persuade friends and peers to engage in similar sexual activity.

Methodology

* A rapid assessment was commissioned by CEOP in January of this year, to identify patterns of offending, victimisation, or vulnerability within these cases; to assess the effectiveness of processes which might help identify this type of offending and victimisation; and to make recommendations that would improve interventions and reduce risk to children in the future.

* Four strands of evidence were drawn upon for this assessment over the six month timeframe.
CEOP conducted a number of debriefings of practitioners, senior investigating officers and multi-agency teams to determine key issues facing the police and safeguarding community. A face-to-face consultation with children and young people who had experienced sexual exploitation, facilitated by the National Working Group on Sexual Exploitation, was undertaken to obtain a victim perspective on child sexual exploitation. A review of research literature on child sexual exploitation informed the findings and conclusions. CEOP also requested relevant data on cases of child sexual exploitation since 1 January 2008, from all police forces, LSCBs, children's services and voluntary service sector providers, receiving a response from 46 police forces, 22 LSCBs and children's services, and 12 voluntary sector organisations.

Data
* Details of 1,875 cases were received by CEOP in relation to localised grooming and child sexual exploitation. Cases included specific investigations, intelligence logs, or submissions from an NGO. This related to 2,083 children and vulnerable young people who were believed to have been groomed, sexually exploited or both.

* There were 2,379 people reported to CEOP as being possible offenders in relation to localised grooming and child sexual exploitation.

* The data demonstrates that individuals of a variety of ethnic backgrounds perpetrate child sexual exploitation. Given the significant number of offenders for whom ethnicity data is not known, it is not possible to substantiate any suggestion that this type of offending is associated with individuals of a particular ethnic background. Further research would be needed to examine whether the ethnic breakdown reflects issues that need to be addressed within a community context, local demographics of the area from which data is drawn, an unconscious bias among agency responses or other factors that need to be explored. The most reliable data group showed that the ethnicity of 32% of offenders was unknown, 38% were white, 26% Asian, 3% Black and 0.2% Chinese.

* Victim experience of localised grooming is diverse, with young people from all backgrounds and all parts of the country. The majority had a history of running away from home and being reported missing on multiple occasions. The majority were disengaged from education, shown by truanting, lack of interest, lethargy or disruptive behaviour.

For all media enquiries please contact the CEOP Centre press office on 0870 000 3434

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