According to a critical report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England (OCC), councils and police forces are failing to face up to the realities of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The report, If It’s Not Better, It’s Not the End, a follow-up to an initial report published by the OCC in late 2013, is part of the OCC’s inquiry into sexual exploitation. It found that in many areas victims and potential victims are still not being identified by child protection agencies.
The latest report states that in one cluster of nine councils, the rates of known victims of CSE varied between one and 65 per 10,000 children, despite the areas having similar deprivation levels and demographics.
Whilst 2,092 victims of CSE were identified in 2013 in England, just 48 per cent of local children's safeguarding boards (LSCBs) said agencies in their area had identified victims.
The OCC also found that at a senior level there is a commitment to tackling CSE, but this message was not filtering through to frontline staff. This is most apparent through the failure of information sharing amongst child protection professionals. At the same time 31 out of 38 police forces have strong information sharing protocols in place.
As well as improved information sharing, the OCC echoes the education select committee's recommendation for schools to provide relationship and sex education, as part of a "robust” personal, social, health and economic education programme.