5 What other steps could the Government
123. The Government produces guidance for local authorities
and has also produced an action plan for tackling child sexual
exploitation. It has also set up working groups, one based within
the Department for Education which examines all aspects of the
response. However we wish to explore whether further work could
be done at a national level to improve the co-ordination of agencies
and the local response to child sexual exploitation.
Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs
124. The issue around data collection and sharing
has been one of the constant themes throughout the report. During
our first evidence session, we asked Peter Davies, the head of
CEOP, what practical things could be done to improve the response
to child sexual exploitation. He told us
No. 1, share data better between the agencies
and be far more open with information about individuals who are
This followed on from the CEOP report produced the
year before which had identified that
A key underlying difficulty in assessing the
scale of 'localised grooming' is the inconsistent recognition
of child sexual exploitation by frontline practitioners and the
failure to record relevant information at a local level. ... Data
relating to child sexual exploitation is often partial and incomplete,
concealed in equivocal secondary indicator data, or simply unrecorded.
In the November 2012 interim report, the Office of
the Children's Commissioner highlighted a number of inconsistencies
around the collection and recording of data.
Almost two years on from the publication of the CEOP report, the
Minister admitted that there were still issues as regarding data
being shared although he noted that the data collection tool produced
by the University of Bedfordshire was intended to improve the
rate of collection and the compatibility of the data collected.
Given that the collation of data is one of the more effective
methods of detecting child sexual exploitation, we regard this
as a positive step.
125. One of the ways that data sharing between agencies
has been encouraged is through co-location of services, known
as a multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). CEOP recognise the
multi-agency safeguarding hub as a model of best practice which
allows practioners to work together in order to safeguard children.
Whilst a Local Children's Safeguarding Board is responsible for
the local area's strategic response to child sexual exploitation,
the MASH is responsible for co-ordinating those working on the
front-line. The Minister also highlighted that the compatibility
of the data collected across agencies in the local area can also
be improved where those services are part of a MASH.
126. Witnesses have suggested that one way to ensure
consistent data collection and recording across the country is
to require that each LCSB set up a MASH.
This would also require LSCBs which have not analysed the
extent of child sexual exploitation within their local area to
do so. The
benefits of a MASH are clear - as CEOP noted in their 2011 report,
child sexual exploitation requires a multi-agency response.
Sexually exploitation demands a multi-faceted
response, and ... victims may be identified by a number of different
agencies, including specialist service providers in the community
and voluntary sector, children's services and police forces. Each
agency is likely to possess varying intelligence on individual
cases and the wider picture of child sexual exploitation within
the region, and each agency provides a particular aspect of the
wider response to child sexual exploitation, from the investigation
and prosecution of offenders, to the dispensation of therapeutic
services for victims. It is therefore essential that these agencies
are able to come together to share information and intelligence,
and to respond to individual cases. No one agency can deliver
a complete response. By working together, outcomes for victims
are improved. For example, common thresholds for intervention
in exploitative relationships can be established, evidence gathering
and sharing is improved, intelligence is gathered proactively,
all agencies are included in responses, and all agencies have
a shared understanding of issues underlying child sexual exploitation.
The leader of Rochdale Council highlighted the benefits
of the MASH model when he gave evidence to the committee. He described
it as being crucial to the whole understanding and identification,
to early identification and to early intervention. He also emphasised
the need of it to be engaged with the wider to community.
Alyas Karmani of STREET underlined the potential benefits of voluntary
organisations being linked to the MASH.
I think it is vital that we develop community
intermediaries who can then be a conduit between the grassroots
and the statutory agencies. At the moment, if you ask a young
person who has been exploited would they go to the police or social
services, they would probably run a mile, so we need to have those
intermediaries in place.
As discussed earlier, we are deeply concerned by
barriers to prosecution surrounding CPS tests for witness credibility.
Although we welcome the DPP's clear intention to improve the CPS's
record on child sex abuse cases, we feel there is still some way
to go in achieving the sea change that is required. In particular,
we were dismayed to hear that one recent case in Rotherham had
collapsed, after charges had been bought, due to the CPS refusing
It is for this reason that better specialist training for prosecutors
will be vital but so will more integration with local specialist
child sexual exploitation investigating teams.
127. We recommend that each Local Children's
Safeguarding Board be required to set up a Multi-Agency Safeguarding
Hub which would house representatives from social care, local
police, health professionals, education, youth offending teams
and voluntary organisations. Each MASH ought to be linked to one
of the Crown Prosecution Service specialist co-ordinators for
child sexual assault cases so that advice regarding any potential
prosecutions can be sought early on if required. The police and
the CPS should also produce guidance on data sharing via the MASH.
Where there is one or more significant minority community within
the area, each MASH team ought also to have a community liaison
who can develop a trusted relationship with that community in
order to ensure that officials are working with the community
to combat all models of child sexual exploitation.
128. One suggestion made to us was that the Government
could introduce a statutory duty to co-operate and share information
regarding the victims of child sexual exploitation. Such a duty
would work in a similar way to the current Multi-Agency Public
Protection Arrangements, implemented under the Criminal Justice
Act 2003. The act requires that the local criminal justice agencies
and other bodies dealing with offenders to work together in partnership
in dealing with these offenders.
According to DCS Doyle
There is still reluctance in some areas to share
what is key information, which is why the relationships are so
important, because they get past those barriers. But if we had
a duty to co-operate, so the onus was on co-operation and the
proactive sharing of information to protect children, rather than
an ability to hide or be scared of the Data Protection Act, I
think that would probably help more than anything.
Legislation which requires anyone who suspects that
child sexual exploitation is taking place to report it would strengthen
this further. In April 2012, the State of Florida passed new legislation
which requires anyone with knowledge of known or suspected cases
of child abuse to file a report with the Florida Abuse Hotline.
Under this legislation it is also an offence to file a false allegation
129. Had such legislation existed previously in England
and Wales, then there would have been a requirement for the police
to act on information provided to them through referrals from,
for instance, the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team.
Such legislation would appear to be a drastic step however, if
we fail to see significant progress in local areas where awareness
must have been raised following the high profile trial in Rochdale
then it may be that such a step is necessary. In HMIC's review
of the information known to police forces about the offending
behaviour of Jimmy Savile, it was noted that failure to report
an arrestable offence in Northern Ireland is actually a criminal
offence and that every State in the United States of America,
all bar one Australian state and all bar one province in Canada
have adopted some form of mandatory reporting requirements where
there are allegations of child abuse or neglect.
The review called for an examination of the introduction of mandatory
reporting of child abuse on the basis that guidance issued to
practioners can sometimes be inconsistent across professions and
does not carry the same weight as a legal requirement.
We recognise the difficulties that introducing
mandatory reporting might bring (such as levels of reporting that
leave the agencies dealing with the reports unable effectively
to cope). However, we consider that the time has come to assess
again whether a requirement to report their concerns to the appropriate
authority should be introduced on those who, in their professional
lives, are made aware of facts that reasonably lead them to the
conclusion that a child may be the subject of abuse. That authority
may not necessarily have to be, in the first instance, the police,
if it was thought that there were a more appropriate individual
to whom to report the matter, for example, a Local Authority Designated
130. We recommend that the Government commission
work to examine the feasibility of introducing a statutory duty
to co-operate and share information to tackle child sexual exploitation.
We also recommend that the Government examine the Florida Protection
of Vulnerable Persons Act passed in 2012 in order to ascertain
whether the mandatory reporting of child abuse could, and should,
be implemented in England and Wales.
278 Q 98 Back
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Out of Sight,
Out of Mind, p35 Back
Office of the Children's Commissioner, Interim report, p 32 Back
Q 897 Back
Ev 151 Back
Q 897 Back
Q 868 Back
Q 672; Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Out
of Sight, Out of Mind, p37 Back
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Out of Sight,
Out of Mind, p34 Back
Q 49 Back
Q 834 Back
Q 473 Back
Qq 264-5 Back
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, "Mistakes
were made.", HMIC's review into allegations and intelligence
material concerning Jimmy Savile between 1964 and 2012, p50 Back
Ibid., p51 Back