West Yorkshire as a whole is tackling the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) with joint working crucial to ensuring victims feel safe and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice.
Events have been brought into sharp focus recently by the report into CSE by Professor Alexis Jay’s independent report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham.
It outlined failings where a culture of inaction and ignorance led to victims being failed on an industrial level. Those recommendations from that report need to be looked at by every police force and local authority across the UK.
That includes West Yorkshire, where I have sought assurances from the Deputy Chief Constable that those recommendations, are embedded and implemented on every level.
Because we need to ensure this is not happening here, and if it is, we are doing everything we can to root it out and deal with it
Education, awareness and training are the tools of power that we will use to combat this culture of fear, intimidation and threats that surround CSE.
I have recently met with child protection experts from across the county to discuss the recommendations from the Rotherham report on child sexual exploitation (CSE) and look at how we work better together going forward.
Children’s Services Directors from all five West Yorkshire Councils, Safeguarding heads and West Yorkshire Police all met at Carr Gate headquarters in Wakefield to discuss the work being done to engage in our communities, prevent children becoming victims, providing help and support for victims and making sure the perpetrators of this crime are punished.
Building on good work already being done we then discussed the creation of an action plan for West Yorkshire which would include increased awareness raising, improved information sharing and intelligence gathering and ensuring all agencies are taking a more joined up approach to tackling CSE.
Since 2012 in West Yorkshire the CSE Strategy Group involving the five Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and West Yorkshire Police Safeguarding leads have come together to share good practice and work with victims to support victims and ensure prosecutions.
Important work has included the West Yorkshire-wide media campaign directed at parents to raise awareness “Know the Signs” and online grooming – “Do You Know Who You Are Talking To”, developing an app for young people, and with Together Against Grooming, a letter to mosques.
I chaired the meeting because it is crucial that all our thinking and work around CSE remains joined up with the victims at the heart of everything we do.
The turnout demonstrated how seriously this issue is treated here in West Yorkshire and what we are doing to tackle it proactively as well as seeing what we can learn from the recommendations contained in the Rotherham report and from each other.
Tackling CSE has always been one of my top priorities as well as other safeguarding issues, which is why I have previously brought partners together to focus and co-ordinate work on CSE and have made an extra £3.5m available to the police for increased capacity to deal with CSE, human trafficking and cyber crime.
Victims have to remain at the heart of everything we do and they need to know that they will be taken seriously, their concerns treated with the utmost respect and listened to, and their perpetrators brought to justice.
This issue needs bringing right out into the open for everyone to see and understand so there is no hiding place, there is no ‘hidden crime’ phrase related to CSE.
I would urge anyone, who believes they have been a victim of CSE, to contact the Police or their local authority, or my office, because they do not have to suffer in silence.