Peterborough City Council was highly commended at last night's LGC Awards in London for its proactive work with Cambridgeshire Police to tackle child sexual exploitation.
The council's child sexual exploitation team was shortlisted in the Team of the Year category for its work with girls who have been exploited. This has included gaining the girls' trust so that they have felt able to share details of their experiences, supporting them through the police investigations and criminal trials, and providing support long-term to allow them to continue with their lives.
The nomination also recognised the city's wider approach to tackling child sexual exploitation to stop it happening in the first place. This has included work with secondary schools including a performance of drama production Chelsea's Choice, briefings with community groups, and specialist training, including a conference, for professionals including GPs, teachers and youth workers.
The city council and Cambridgeshire Police launched a proactive investigation in 2013 after it was suspected children were being sexually exploited in the city.
Since then, nine men and boys have been jailed for a total of 101 years and nine months.
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, Corporate Director: People and Communities, said: "It is fantastic to receive national recognition for our proactive work to tackle child sexual exploitation head on in Peterborough.
"Our dedicated team has worked incredibly hard in the past two years, often during the evening and at weekends, to be able to support the vulnerable girls who need our protection and to assist the police in bringing to justice the men and boys who so cruelly have abused them.
"It really has been a whole team effort, from the social workers and police officers who are supporting the girls, the detectives investigating the crimes and the wider work across the city to educate people about the signs of sexual exploitation to try and stop it happening in the first place.
"Having a dedicated team of social workers who have the time to support the girls has been absolutely crucial, as has the way we have worked side by side with the police throughout.
"I am delighted that our social workers, the police and everyone who has worked so hard to protect the girls and bring the offenders to justice have received the praise that they deserve."
Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgway, from Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s public protection department, said: “This was a very proud moment for the team which recognised what agencies can achieve if we genuinely work together.
“Local authority children and adult services, police, NSPCC, local safeguarding board members, health services and community and education leads all put the needs of young people first, listening to what they were telling us and demonstrating true determination to tackle this horrible form of abuse.
“I hope young people hearing about this award will be even more reassured of our commitment to help them should they be affected by sexual exploitation.”