William Eichler 29 September 2016

Healthcare staff ‘not always able’ to identify signs of sexual exploitation

Not all frontline healthcare staff are able to identify the signs of sexual exploitation, inspectorates find.

A joint report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation welcomes evidence of improvement in the multi-agency response to tackling child sexual exploitation over the past two years.

However, the study - titled ‘Time to listen’− a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children - said that a key concern is that not all frontline healthcare staff are able to identify the signs of sexual exploitation.

The report, which Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission also contributed to, looked in depth at how local authorities, the police, probation services, Youth Offending Teams, health services and Local Safeguarding Children Boards are responding to children at risk of child sexual exploitation.

It focused on Central Bedfordshire, Croydon, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, and South Tyneside.

Another key finding was that vulnerable children greatly benefit from building a relationship with one trusted individual, such as a social worker, and being actively involved in decisions about their lives.

Eleanor Schooling, Ofsted national director for social care, said: ‘Helping victims of child sexual exploitation is a very tough task. We should be optimistic that this is a task that can be done effectively.

‘Our inspections have found that when key frontline staff are well-trained, take their responsibilities seriously, work closely together and, possibly most importantly, have the time to build relationships with children, the issues can be dealt with sensitively and successfully.’

‘We have found that strong leadership makes a huge difference. Those areas where there was clear direction and a collective will to tackle this issue did well by their vulnerable children,’ said Ms. Schooling.

‘Practice needs to improve. Local authorities, police and health services need to gain a better understanding of why children run away from home. We need to understand why the current system of return home interviews is not working if we really want to help children who go missing.’

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