September 2, 2014, by Emma Thorne

Young voices ignored

Experts from a University-based charity have said that inter-agency communication is the key to preventing cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

Last night’s BBC Panorama programme, Stolen Lives: The Grooming Scandal, investigated the widespread sexual abuse which has devastated the lives of at least 1,400 children in the South Yorkshire town over the last 20 years.

South Yorkshire police has now commissioned an independent investigation into its handling of allegations of abuse reported by children in Rotherham. An independent report by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, published last week, has resulted in the suspension of four Labour Party members in the town, including Rotherham councillors and former councillors. The report highlighted failings by the local authorities to respond to warnings that children, many of them in local authority care, were being groomed and abused by older men.

Responding to the Rotherham findings, the Ann Craft Trust charity, based on University Park campus, said the report was an indication of the depth of the pain and abuse that young people have experienced and the challenge that faces professionals in recognising and tackling child sexual exploitation.

ACT works with staff in the statutory, independent and voluntary sectors to protect disabled children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk from abuse and also provides training in all aspects of safeguarding.

The charity has been seeking to work to increase recognition of the signs of sexual exploitation in children and encourage robust work to tackle the behaviour of abusers for a long time.

Sarah Goff, ACT’s Disabled Children Manager said: “Sexual exploitation is the taking advantage of young people who are already dealing with the challenges of their teenage years and adolescence; they may go missing, taken out of safer teenage orbits, they become isolated from people who have their best interests at heart.”

Professionals of all agencies need to work together to share concerns, share information and to plan as a team across disciplines. Sarah Goff said “The task for all professionals is to see a way through this to be able to communicate and build trust with young people. CSE is complex because it often happens away from parents and professionals made more complex by the manipulative behaviours of abusers from all parts of society. The key to good practice is communication at all levels between agencies and in listening to and making effective relationships with teenagers.”

ACT believes that striving to improve professional skills and develop public awareness of CSE will create stronger practice and make young people safer.

The BBC Panorama programme, Stolen Lives: The Grooming Scandal, is available on iPlayer for the next 11 months.

Posted in Social Sciences