An overview of the way agencies in Peterborough worked together to identify and tackle child sexual exploitation has been published today by the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board.
The report looks at how child sexual exploitation was addressed by the agencies involved between 2010 and 2016 and reflects on the outcomes achieved under Operation Erle, the joint police and council operation to bring offenders to justice and protect vulnerable young people which has received national praise.
Operation Erle involved five separate criminal trials, resulting in 10 men and boys receiving sentences totalling 114 years and nine months.
The report also evaluates the overall learning as a result of the work of the agencies to identify and address child sexual exploitation and recommends potential future learning opportunities.
In conclusion, the report finds that when concerns of child sexual exploitation have been identified, the multi-agency response has been proactive, comprehensive and reflective.
In addition, the partnership working of the agencies, under the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, has ensured that child sexual exploitation has been highlighted and recognised as a problem within the city. The author refers to 'continuous developments to address the issue in a proactive rather than reactive manner.'
Russell Wate, independent chair of the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, said: "The joint investigation, Operation Erle, has received national praise for the police, council and the safeguarding children board for how they tackled child exploitation and continue to tackle the issue within the city.
"However, this must not for one moment diminish the suffering of all of the victims involved and they must be at the centre of any learning so that we can try to prevent similar situations arising in the future.
"This must be the overarching aim of the publication of this document, to promote the safeguarding of children and young people from child sexual exploitation, locally and nationally."
The report recognises the national context of a general lack of awareness of the signs of and symptoms of child sexual exploitation, in which Peterborough was no different.
It also looks at the individual responses of the agencies to child sexual exploitation and how those agencies have developed their practice and procedures to ensure that young people are protected and awareness of the issue is raised. This includes the production of a Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy and Action Plan, education in schools including the theatre production Chelsea's Choice and a training package which raises awareness of child sexual exploitation in the wider community.
The report also recommends a number of recommendations. These include:
- For the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board to map and evaluate high-risk areas for child sexual exploitation to inform the early identification of perpetrators and victims.
- For the needs of the young people or adults involved to be considered at the earliest possible point if a large scale investigation arises, so that all agencies can address their long-term emotional health and wellbeing needs.
- For the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board to undertake an audit of the work done by schools and other educational establishments to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
- For agencies to provide assurance to the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board that they review their missing from home procedures to ensure, for example, that there is information sharing and appropriate recording.
- For all agencies to ensure that the voice of children and young people is central in all child sexual exploitation work.
The full report is available on the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board website.