Multi-agency response to criminal exploitation of children praised by inspectors

Police, the council, health services and the children’s safeguarding partnership in West Yorkshire are “effectively working together to protect children from criminal exploitation”, according to a recent multi-agency inspection.

Aug 22, 2022
By Paul Jacques

It found children in Kirklees who were at risk of, or experiencing, criminal exploitation have “their needs identified quickly and receive multi-agency support to manage and reduce risk to them effectively”.

The joint targeted area inspection of the multi-agency response to the criminal exploitation of children in Kirklees was carried out in June by inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

It found leaders and managers had “an effective oversight of practice at the ‘front door’”, with multi-agency meetings identifying risks of exploitation and providing oversight of the demand for services.

In particular, inspectors highlighted West Yorkshire Police’s Child Vulnerability and Exploitation Team (CVET), as a “skilled team of experienced and accredited child abuse investigators”.

The team has provided effective training to frontline police officers and staff across the Kirklees area to raise awareness of its role in the protection of children and risk indicators for exploitation.

Frontline police officers in Kirklees receive regular bulletins about children who are at risk of exploitation, and those who pose a risk to them.

However, inspectors said the force has agreed to improve its electronic briefing system to make sure that information can be updated in real-time.

“Police prevention interviews are held regularly when children go missing,” sad the report.

“This provides an early understanding of push and pull factors and supports the child on their return.

“Independent return home interviews are offered routinely and completed when engagement is possible. When successful engagement with children has not been achieved, the interview considers push and pull factors and includes discussion with family and the wider professional network.”

Detective Chief Inspector Alex Bacon of Kirklees District Police said all officers have had a role to play in the journey towards establishing a child centred approach to policing in the district.

“Kirklees police and the partnership should be proud of these findings in recognition of our hard work and commitment to child protection and identifying and addressing vulnerability within all the children of Kirklees when they are missing and/or exploited, said Det Chief Insp Bacon.

“I am very humbled by the dedication of the teams that have achieved this fantastic feedback.’

“Particular note and thanks must go to our CVET and child multi agency safeguarding hub.

“They are police teams who demonstrate robust and effective assessment of risk to children and are persistent in their engagement with vulnerable children in an incredibly challenging environment.  Their established processes and expertise in their roles has been recognised as best practice.”

Det Chief Insp Bacon added: “The report also highlighted a number of recent innovations introduced in the district, including the ‘Safe Zone’ scheme in Huddersfield, which has established safe ‘hubs – in shops and transport hubs where people can go if they feel threatened and the use of a focused deterrent car’ used by police to disrupt criminal behaviour and engage with children.”

Julie Sykes independent scrutineer on the Kirklees Children’s Safeguarding Partnership said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work teams from across our partnership are carrying out to protect children and young people from criminal exploitation.

“Our aim is to make sure all children can have the best start in life, this can only happen when we work together to keep them safe.

“We know that vulnerable young people can be targeted by criminals who exploit them for their own gain, and we are working hard to make sure we can spot the signs of exploitation, act quickly to stop it and make sure young people are supported to move on with their lives in a positive way.

“As a partnership we have worked together to put in place measures that give young people access to the support they need and to provide professional training on what to look out for and what they should do if they think a child is being exploited.

“We are pleased that the inspection recognises our commitment to giving young people a voice and providing the right support quickly and efficiently to safeguard them.”

The report highlighted some specific areas of good practice taking place in Kirklees. It stated that these are positive examples of how partners have acted on children’s views and their understanding of need in Kirklees.

Inspectors recognised the introduction of ‘trauma navigators’ in emergency departments in the autumn as an “additional commitment to identifying young people at risk of being exploited”.

“They provided the means to act early, promoting the overarching aim of making every contact count and ensuring the right care at the right time,” said the report.

Inspectors identified the Youth Engagement Service in Kirklees as a successful resource. It said that they work well with other agencies to identify and meet the needs of children who are at risk of or are experiencing exploitation.

Inspectors also recognised the impact that the services have had on the lived experience of exploitation.

During their visit inspectors spoke with children, young people and their families.

“A parent told inspectors that the intervention from the partnership ‘had been amazing’ and led to a reduction in the number of times their child went missing,” said the report.

Ms Sykes added: “The members of the safeguarding partnership are committed to making sure we continue to build on our good work to date, and to act on the small number of recommendations for improvement in the report.

“We have already improved our training offer, and how we record the work and decision-making of the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Partnership.  We are also working to put in place improved contingency planning for children in care who are not able to return to their birth families.

“Our heath colleagues are continuing to work with health practitioners, including GPs and emergency department staff to make sure exercising professional curiosity when working with children and young people remains a part of their everyday working practice.”

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