Chief inspector of constabulary says forces increasingly used as service of first resort and face ‘unacceptable drain’ on resources Police cannot continue to pick up the slack for cuts in other public services, especially the shortage in mental health provision, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary has warned. In an annual state of policing report, Sir Tom Winsor highlights a “modern tsunami of online fraud” and increased police awareness of crimes against the elderly and child sexual exploitation as among the increasing daily pressures facing officers. “The police are considered to be the service of last resort. In some areas, particularly where people with mental health problems need urgent help, the police are increasingly being used as the service of first resort. This is wrong,” says the chief inspector. Winsor, who was appointed by Theresa May when she was home secretary, says the failures of other public services, especially in respect of children’s and adolescent
Javed Khan outlines the messages for professionals from new research on child sexual exploitation
‘…………….By Kelly Mattison
As a domestic violence worker, many of the young women I work with have no idea they are experiencing abuse
As an independent domestic violence worker, I have trained doctors and nurses in A&E departments across Greater Manchester in how to spot the signs of domestic violence, and worked one-to-one with patients in hospital with visible injuries. I am a trained to facilitate the freedom programme, a 12-week awareness-raising course on domestic violence. I deliver this programme to women of all ages who have experienced abuse. I also go to schools to teach girls about healthy and unhealthy relationship.
A typical day
I make a rough plan for my day, but know from experience that I cannot anticipate the issues that may come up. Last time I was in a school, I received a disclosure about child sexual exploitation. A young girl told me she was being labelled as “the biggest charge sheet going”. I had no idea what this meant so I asked her. “You know,” she said, “it’s the sheet the guy gets off the police when you’re underage.”
When I trained doctors and nurses in hospitals, each session was sidetracked with someone telling me about their own experience of domestic violence. One nurse told me she had been thrown down the stairs. Another was being threatened by her ex-partner each time she went to work. A session I delivered in a children’s centre was diverted by a 19-year-old girl telling me the level of domestic violence she had suffered was so high that the police had built a panic room in her house to protect her and her children from her ex-partner when he was released from prison. She said she still didn’t feel safe, so we spent the session going through safety planning techniques.
The issues affecting my work at the moment.
There isn’t enough awareness about the different types of domestic abuse and the various tactics perpetrators use. With some professionals I have come into contact with there is a fear of the phrase domestic violence, and a misunderstanding about what it is.
Many young people I work with have no idea that they are experiencing domestic violence, and so many young girls tell me the same kinds of stories again and again. If more education about domestic abuse was given in schools, then young girls wouldn’t be under such pressure, and they would not have to go through these debilitating anxieties about relationships by themselves.
The moment I’ll always remember
The time I was called to A&E to work with a woman who had been beaten so badly by her ex-partner and his friend that I could not make out her face. The first thing she said to me was “It’s my fault”. I spent the first part of our meeting convincing her that it was not in any way her fault.
What I love about what I do
I love teaching young people. It is satisfying to know that I am arming them with information about domestic abuse at a young age. It’s rewarding to see their confidence increase as they realise they can do what they want, when they want, that it’s not their fault if their partner calls them a “slag” or a “whore” and that they’re not fat, no matter what their partner says. Most importantly, it is satisfying to teach them that it’s okay to say “no” to their partners, and to anything, whenever they want.
One thing I wish I’d known when I started out
I wish I’d known that completing my freedom programme training would change my whole outlook on life. I see things differently now. I’m aware of every tactic – emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse – and because of this I see it everywhere.
If there was an extra hour in the day …
I would call into more schools, and explain to headteachers what a difference it would make to girls’ lives if they put just a couple of hours a week aside to teach teenage girls about domestic abuse and the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. It would be so great to arm all girls with the knowledge that could protect them from abuse, rather than dealing with the aftermath.
Kelly Mattison is an independent domestic violence worker. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymattison7
If you would like to feature in our Day in the Life series, or know someone who would, email firstname.lastname@example.org ………………’
Research published today shows how a lack of the right information can prevent social workers from protecting children with learning disabilities from sexual exploitation
Low understanding of what impact learning disabilities have on the lives of children prevents social workers from adequately protecting them from child sexual exploitation (CSE).
That was the message from ‘Unprotected, overprotected’, research published today about how agencies can meet the needs of young people with learning disabilities who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, sexual exploitation.
The report, commissioned by Comic Relief, highlighted that some young people with learning disabilities had become invisible in services, and that professionals working with CSE often lacked the right information to protect them. This included not recognising that they had a learning disability.
“There appears to be a clear pattern across the UK of CSE professionals working with young people for whom there is no formal or informal identification of a learning disability or specific learning need,” the research said.
Likewise, staff in specialist disability services “are not always adequately trained to identify and manage child protection concerns”, the report said.
The ‘infantilisation’ of young people with learning disabilities, their social isolation and a lack of empowerment contribute to failing to recognise that young people with learning disabilities experience CSE, the research found.
It said: “Young people with learning disabilities share many of the same vulnerabilities to CSE that are faced by all young people, but the evidence indicates that they face additional barriers to their protection, and to receiving support to address CSE.”
Young people with learning disabilities can have more difficulties understanding the complex factors relating to CSE, and professionals had false perceptions that they do not have the same needs, wishes or desires to have a relationship as all young people, it said.
“The evidence also highlights the need for national investment to develop CSE resources and materials specifically tailored to support direct practice with young people with learning disabilities,” the research said.
Emilie Smeaton, one of the authors of the report, has written a top tips guide for social workers on how they can protect children with disabilities from child sexual exploitation.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, who worked on the report, said that professionals “must get training to recognise the risks faced by children with learning disabilities and help them to stay safe”. …..’
‘……………..BY SION MORGAN
South Wales Police have been criticised over its record on child sexual exploitation by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)
South Wales Police failed to investigate a group of men who had sexually exploited a 15-year-old girl for four years, according to a police watchdog.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warned the force, which police’s two biggest cities Cardiff and Swansea, that it must reassess its approach to child protection after inspectors found “concerning examples” where its service fell short.
South Wales Police said it is already addressing HMIC’s recommendations. It has commissioned its own review and developing a joint action plan while it “continues to embed the actions needed now.”
40 forms… but no investigation
In her report, HM Inspector of Constabulary Drusilla Sharpling CBE said South Wales Police has “much more to do” to understand the nature and extent of child sexual exploitation in the communities it serves.
She added: “We were concerned to find a particular case of a 15-year-old girl who was sexually exploited by men over a four-year period.
“Despite over 40 child protection forms having been completed, there had been no investigation to identify the men and protect other children.
“The quality and timeliness of investigations also needs to be improved.
“We found examples of serious cases, such as rape and sexual assault that were dealt with by non-specialist officers.
“We also found a case concerning the rape of a 15-year-old girl by a pupil at her school, and although the initial response was good, the girl was not interviewed for five months.”
The suspect in the 15-year-old girl’s rape case was not arrested for a further two months and, at the time of the inspection, remained on bail.
In half of cases examined, South Wales Police’s response was ‘inadequate’
Half of the 16 cases involving child sexual exploitation examined by HMIC were found to be “inadequate”.
In another case police failed to investigate or identify a suspect accused of enticing school pupils into posting inappropriate sexual images of themselves on social media, despite officers having an email address for the man.
The report into child protection work carried out by South Wales Police follows an inspection carried out earlier this year.
Inspectors found a “lack of understanding” regarding the extent of child sexual exploitation and an “inconsistent response across the force area”.
Early intervention and long-term inter-agency planning for children who regularly go missing from home was described as “ineffective” while enquiries and investigations were undertaken by “insufficiently skilled and knowledgeable staff” while children were being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight.
Ms Sharpling added: “We have asked South Wales Police to provide us with an action plan within six weeks setting out how it will respond to our recommendations.”
Staff were ‘committed’
Despite its shortcomings, South Wales Police was found to carry out its duty to protect children well in a number of other areas.
In particular inspectors were pleased to find “a clear commitment to improving services for children in need of protection”.
Staff responsible for managing child abuse investigations were described as “highly committed, hard working, knowledgeable and dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes” while officers “responded quickly and undertook thorough initial enquires about the immediate safety of children”.
The force was also praised for its good management of registered sex offenders and a strong commitment to working in partnership.
Ms Sharpling said: “South Wales Police is clearly committed to improving child protection services.
“We were pleased to find examples where the welfare of children had been of the upmost priority for officers.
“In cases where the concern was serious and immediately recognised as a child protection matter, the approach to the child or parents (or social worker when the parent was a suspect) was carefully considered, and the best ways to engage with the child were explored.
“This sensitive approach resulted in stronger relationships between the child and police.
“The force has recognised that its response to child sexual exploitation is underdeveloped and is taking steps to address this.”
South Wales Police: Action has been taken
South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Holland said: “Whilst we cannot comment in detail about the cases (mentioned in the report), because they are live investigations, we can confirm that appropriate actions had already been taken and arrests had been made prior to the HMIC report being released.
“South Wales Police is no different to any force in terms of needing to tackle issues related to demand, capacity and resources. The HMIC has identified a number of areas that need addressing and we have now set up a programme of action to tackle these.
“A lot of the areas identified in this report have already been rectified but the challenges we face are mirrored by every force and the best way to resolve problems in relation to child protection is through a successful multi-agency approach. I am pleased to say that we have an excellent relationship with our key partners and together we are heading in the right direction.
“This force is completely committed and dedicated to child protection and it remains an absolute priority which we are determined to enforce to the best of our ability.”
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sophie Howe added: “We are taking forward a number of actions following our review into Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in South Wales.
“HMIC have identified some excellent practice including our new system to help identify children at risk and the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf, which enables us to share information with all agencies to protect vulnerable children and adults.
“But we have more work to do internally and with our partners.
“It will be essential to work with care providers and those who inspect them to support their approach to identifying children at risk and responding when they go missing from care.
“We need local authorities to keep working with us to put in place more multi-agency safeguarding hubs, and we need everyone to contribute to our understanding of where and when children are at risk so we can all intervene at an earlier stage.”
‘……………By Martin Evans, Crime Correspondent
National Crime Agency says new investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham identifies estimated 300 possible suspects
At least 300 possible suspects have been identified by investigators probing the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said most of the potential suspects were Asian men, while the vast majority of victims were young British girls.
The NCA launched a major investigation into the scandal after a damning report by Professor Alex Jay last year, revealed that as many as 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked and groomed by mainly Asian gangs in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
Following the revelations South Yorkshire police, which was criticised for its handling of abuse allegations, asked the NCA to intervene and the agency launched Operation Stovewood.
The report, which was published in August last year and was highly critical of police and local authority actions over 16 years, shocked the nation andled to a wave of high-profile resignations.
Trevor Pearce, the officer in overall charge of the investigation said so far the number of potential offenders was in the low hundreds, but he acknowledged some of the names gathered could have been duplicated.
Steve Baldwin, the senior investigating officer, said more than 3,300 lines of inquiry had been identified so far and the investigation would take some time to complete.
He said: “The abuse that has taken place in Rotherham is horrific. We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events.”
He said work to identify all the victims was ongoing, but the figure of 1,400 that appeared in Professor Jay’s report was a “good estimate”.
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The NCA confirmed that two of those under investigation are serving or former Rotherham councillors.
Mr Baldwin said his team was prioritising those suspects who still posed a threat and had committed the most serious offences.
But he said: “I want to assure all victims that we will examine all allegations of abuse and, most importantly, we will listen to victims.”
A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “The scale of child sexual abuse in Rotherham that continues to be uncovered is staggering. Eight years after the first victims of widespread grooming were identified the scandal is still rumbling on.
“This latest police investigation may relate to historical cases but still leaves the feeling that the dark shadow of abuse has not been lifted from the city.
“ We must hope this latest operation will finally sweep up those offenders who may still be posing a threat to children in Rotherham. No one should rest easy until all such predators are removed from the streets and victims get the justice they deserve.” ………..’