The Association of Child Protection Professionals welcomes the publication of the ‘Independent assurance review of the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester’. This provides an opportunity to understand ‘lessons learned’ and to consider what next for supporting practitioners working with potential victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The report reminds us of the tenacity of individuals who worked tirelessly to try and identify, safeguard and support the victims. These voices, alongside those of many children, were ignored, allowing perpetrators to continue the abuse. The review findings call to mind ‘If only someone had listened’ (the Children’s Commissioners report of November 2013 into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups), which also provided evidence of professionals not listening to, or believing, child victims. The independent assurance review details the serious failures of Greater Manchester Police and Children’s Social Care in protecting children from the abuse they received at the hands of organised grooming gangs. There is perhaps a renewed need for all agencies (across the UK) to consider their roles in preventing sexual exploitation and to commit to hearing, believing and advocating for victims.
Although the review details the attempts of individuals to investigate allegations, to refer into appropriate safeguarding process and protect these vulnerable children, it also highlights the failure of agencies and senior leadership within them. With the familiar roll call of under resourcing and workload considerations provided as explanation there are remaining questions about the ability to respond effectively to ‘lessons learned’ if systemic factors contributing to these failures endure. The upcoming 4th part of the report, looking into whether we can have confidence in current arrangements for protecting children from sexual abuse, will perhaps provide an indication of this.
Whilst we await the publication of this, the findings of the recent report reinforce for the AoCPP the importance of multi-agency and multi-disciplinary child protection approaches to safeguard and protect vulnerable young people and adults. The review strengthens our resolve to offer multidisciplinary learning spaces for child protection professionals to come together to support this objective.