Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre [LCG 09]

I write to you in my position as Chief Executive Officer for The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and as the ACPO Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation and Missing Children. Following the oral evidence I gave to you on 12 June 2012 I would like to submit further written evidence in order to assist you and The Home Affairs Select Committee in its Inquiry into Localised Grooming.

CEOP is considered the strategic lead agency on matters relating to Child Sexual Exploitation. We are continually developing expertise and knowledge within the centre working alongside partners to prevent crime, protect victims and to pursue offenders in a number of areas. This includes Localised Grooming also known as Group and Gang Associated Child Sexual Exploitation (GGCSE).

GGCSE is a growing agenda highlighted in recent high profile cases. There have also been a number of pieces of research in this area. In 2011 Barnardo’s published “A Puppet on a String: the urgent need to cut children free from sexual exploitation”. This assessment highlighted concerns about a lack of CSE Awareness amongst frontline practitioners and strategic planners. Similarly CEOP’s Thematic Assessment “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” highlighted that Group Associated Child Sexual Abuse (CSE) is taking place everywhere but much of it falls below the radar of relevant authorities, and that there are significant gaps in intelligence and knowledge regarding this type of criminality.

Alongside this in 2011 the government published its “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan”, the plan included a range of commitments and actions from a variety of departments aiming to ensure victims are identified and supported to break away from CSE. Following these publications The University of Bedfordshire, supported by Comic Relief published research exploring the response of Local Safeguarding Children’s Board’s (LSCB’s) to the 2009 Government Guidance “Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation”. This report found that the guidance was not always implemented, and as a result, there was insufficient awareness of CSE among young people, parents and carers.

Following on a variety of research and ongoing work has been published and is underway in 2012:

The progress report into the government’s “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan” has been published

The Deputy Children’s Commissioner has launched a an Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups—an accelerated report into the emerging findings has been published with specific relevance to the disproportionate level of children in care becoming victims of CSE as well as indicating that the scope and extent of GGCSE is far greater than what is currently known. The initial report is due to be published at the end of October 2012.

The Office for the Children’s Commissioner for England, The University of Bedfordshire and The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime are researching the prevalence of, children and young people’s routes into and away from sexual exploitation in gang affected neighbourhoods.

Missing People and The University of Bedfordshire are researching Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and CSE.

Barnardo’s in partnership with Paradigm Research are debriefing children who go missing and are victims of CSE to learn from the experiences.

This is clear evidence that all partners are working to understand and address this serious issue in all its forms, work to date has proven valuable and progress is being made by partners, there has already been action taken to address the matter in response to recommendations resulting from the initial research . These points haves been referenced in detail throughout this document in the relevant areas, they are outlined in summary below;

Action Already Taken:

The Witness Intermediary Scheme—Ministry of Justice (MOJ)

The creation of a Data Monitoring Toll—University of Bedfordshire

ACPO Missing Pilots—trialling revised definitions of Missing and Absent

ACPO and NPIA creation of a CSE Awareness DVD for frontline staff

ACPO/CEOP consultation with senior investigating officers regarding victim and witness experiences

The creation of a Memorandum of Understanding between UKHTC and CEOP

Moving forward from Research conducted/in progress and actions completed, I can report on the current action that is underway to address this issue:

CEOP conducted an annual threat assessment in 2011 which identified 5 key threat areas to be focused on in 201213. These areas are identified below:

1. Targeting of children based on heightened vulnerability.

2. Those who offend sexually against children using the anonymity of the hidden internet.

3. The production, distribution and possession of Indecent Images of Children (IIOC’s).

4. Those who travel overseas to sexually offend.

5. Group and Gang Associated Child Sexual Exploitation (GGCSE).

Key threat 5 is specifically relevant to this Inquiry and looks to scope and assess our existing understanding of GGCSE, identify gaps in intelligence, examine research into the threat and identify and take forward action in order to address the threat. Currently this key threat is in the process of being reviewed within CEOP. The review will benchmark the current knowledge on GGCSE as a result of academic research and operational experience, a product of this review will be an Action Plan specific to GGCSE; this will identify actions and deliverables to be undertaken across the centre, and will also be for the consideration of partners. CEOP has been and will continue to be engaging with stakeholders and partners across the government and voluntary sector to provide support, guidance and collaboration around this work whilst ensuring consistency and reducing duplication.

In addition to the work undertaken by CEOP, in my role as ACPO Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation I led the production of a CSE Action plan for ACPO, the plan was created in recognition the seriousness of this type of criminality and of the learning and development issues identified for policing within the Governments “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan” and CEOP’s Thematic Assessment “Out Mind, Out of Sight”. The objective of the plan is to improve existing partnership working, victim prevention and protection, pursuit of offenders and service delivery. The plan is currently in draft and being progressed through ACPO for endorsement. Subject to this endorsement we aim to publish the plan in late 2012. The draft plan sets in place a total of 31 individual actions under seven key considerations;

1. Leadership—Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation is a multiagency issue which requires clear leadership within the police service and from the police service towards partners.

2. Victims—Protecting, Supporting, Safeguarding and Managing Risk; a key priority for the police service is to identify and protect children and young people at risk of, or subject to sexual exploitation and to safeguard, support and prevent them from further harm.

3. Partnerships—Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation; is one of the most important challenges facing the police; the only way to tackle it effectively is through multiagency working and a partnership approach. Our objective is to build on and strengthen existing partnerships and identify new partnerships (internal and external) to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation.

4. Effective Investigations and Bringing offenders to Justice—Tackling offending behaviour is crucial to the effective prevention of Child Sexual Exploitation and protection of victims, this will be delivered through professional investigation, effective identification and targeting of perpetrators (including potential perpetrators) and robust offender management.

5. Prevention—Public Confidence and Awareness; Child Sexual Exploitation takes place within our communities, it is important that we engage and raise awareness and understanding to prevent children from becoming victims. It is crucial to victims and public confidence that the response of the police service is reflected accurately through the media and other public facing communication methods.

6. Intelligence and Performance Monitoring—It is of essential that we gain a greater knowledge and understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation and how to effectively target activity at a local, regional and national level. Understanding and monitoring performance is vital to assist the effective promulgation of learning and sharing of best practice.

7. Learning and Development—The depth of knowledge held by frontline policing professionals in Child Sexual Exploitation is inconsistent, it is critical they have the understanding to recognise and respond effectively to Child Sexual Exploitation.

It is evident that there is a clear need for Policing to drive forward proactive work in partnership with other agencies around CSE, this action plan offers a clear way forward that can be monitored and adapted to encompass further recommendations and issues as they arise.

Both CEOP and ACPO are working closely with the Home Office, Department for Education, UKHTC, The Office of the Children’s Commissioner and many other partners and stakeholders in furthering work around GGCSE.

In terms of the future for CEOP in all areas of its business I spoke in detail when I gave oral evidence on 12th June 2012 about the transition into the National Crime Agency (NCA). I would like to take this opportunity to further reassure you in this. As I stated previously CEOP will be one of the four key commands within the NCA and all six principles to which CEOP are committed will be upheld. CEOP is due to begin its role as shadow command within the NCA in January 2013 before the official transition in October 2013. There will be a distinct advantage for CEOP in all areas of its business including CSE to work closer with other commands, CEOP will also have access to greater resources in order to tackle key issues such as CSE and the whole NCA will be subject to Section 11 of the Children’s Act (2004) adding further weight of responsibility for the NCA to ensure children are protected.

In terms of CSE at a national level, CSE is integrated within the Organised Immigration Crime Threat Reduction Board (OIC TRB) as a key threat. Threat Reduction Boards were established to provide a focus for law enforcement partners in tackling specific issues; these multi agency boards are high level and report into a Threat Reduction Assurance Forum (TRAF) and then directly into the Home Office in order to identify the key issues and appropriate actions to reduce the threat. CEOP contributes directly to the OIC TRB in order to ensure actions are undertaken and managed effectively for this area of business, CEOP works alongside SOCA, UKHTC, UKBA, ACPO and other law enforcement partners within the TRB. The format of the TRB may change as the transition into the NCA progresses in order to manage the threats more effectively, however detail around this is still being established.

In your request for a written submission of evidence you specified that the Inquiry is looking at a number of key areas, I have commented on the areas as below:

The proportion of child victims in local authority care or otherwise known to social services

The number of young people “known to social services” is a misleading description often banded around when discussing children who have been exploited. Many children are known to social services without ever having received a service or been subject to children’s services in any significant way. They may have been reported to the local authority due to a parental domestic dispute, for being caught shoplifting or for persistent truanting, none of which would automatically culminate in any intervention other than a record of the referral.

As a result, when using this description, many children involved in studies of CSE “after the event” are reported as being known to their local department. Having established that children are “known” to local authority, there needs to be further assessment of how they are known and, more importantly, whether there has been any significant intervention with that child by the local authority.

Some cases of GGCSE have included children in the care of local authorities, although the level of information available is insufficient to provide clear statistical data, the OCC’s accelerated report from its inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups alludes to a disproportionate representation of victims who are in care however further research in the course of the inquiry needs to be completed in order to better understand this.

It stands to reason that people who are seeking to exploit young people may operate from an area where there are higher numbers of vulnerable children, which may include areas where there are children’s homes. Some of the children exploited by organised groups known to CEOP have been received into care as a result of their exploitation, or parents have asked for them to be accommodated due to the associated behavioural issues, the child being “beyond parental control”.

Children involved in the care system are often vulnerable as a result of their life experiences in addition to the nature of being cared for by “corporate parents” and so the discussion needs to be much wider than simply whether exploited children are “in local authority care”. Furthermore, the exploitation of children in care is not necessarily a reflection on, or a failure of the care system, but may be a culmination of the life experiences the young person has had which led them to be received into care in the first place.

Whether the current criteria for triggering involvement by social services in individual cases take adequate account of the signs of localised grooming

Over time austerity measures have resulted in cutbacks in local authority budgets which have led social services departments to prioritise “core business” over a sustained period. In effect, this has led many local authorities to a point where they are only able to deal with Child Protection cases. Thresholds for intervention have risen steadily, meaning that lower end “Child in Need” cases are not able to be addressed as departments do not have the capacity to undertake this work alongside responsibilities for Looked after Children, Child Protection and Care Proceedings.

The Statutory Guidance “Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (2009)” and “What to do if you suspect a Child is being Sexually Exploited—A step by step guide for frontline practitioners (2012)” both include a list of indicators of CSE and clearly set out the circumstances when Social Services involvement should be triggered. However some of the signs of a child being sexually exploited may not meet the threshold of statutory intervention and as a result would not culminate in Social Services intervention. They may instead trigger intervention under the “Common Assessment Framework” (CAF), leading to a multi-agency response to tackle the causes of vulnerability and provide support services to young people at risk of or who are suspected of being sexually exploited. Some agencies are far better placed than social services to intervene. Equally if indicators are recognised by other agencies it is often only through the sharing of information that issues are clearly identified.

Responsibility for tackling CSE should not be seen as simply the responsibility of social services, it should be shared, there are examples of best practice around information sharing which greatly assist not only indentifying issues but also to ensure the child is safeguarded in the most appropriate way. ACPO recognise Multi- Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) as best practice, MASH’s are staffed by professionals from Health, Police, Probation, Children’s Services and 3rd sector support agencies. They share information to ensure early identification and appropriate interventions where issues are identified. Close partnership working not only allows for the sharing of data but also that of learning and best practice which can be valuable in understanding and planning effective interventions. This approach also ensures multi-agency accountability aids the prevention of duplication and minimises potential risk of re-victimisation whilst ensuring the welfare and safeguarding of the child or young person is the paramount consideration.

Further to the challenges for Children’s Services, the University of Bedfordshire interviewed practitioners in social care and found that current child protection procedures do not support the proactive and necessary long term approach required to deal with children who at risk of, and victims of CSE, The College of Social Work is considering its training package to ensure that CSE is accurately reflected in the training of social workers.

Furthermore the current statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children” has been reduced and split into three new documents in order to streamline the content. There has been a significant consultation period in order to give agencies the opportunity to ensure the guidance contains all relevant information. In my role as ACPO Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation I have worked with colleagues to facilitate an ACPO response to the consultation on behalf of all police forces in England, this is to ensure the police’s perspective is represented collectively in order to improve the existing guidance and in due course the multi-agency ability to safeguard children.

The support provided to victims and witnesses by a range of agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service, Police and voluntary agencies

The provision and quality of support provided to victims and witnesses in CSE cases is directly impacted by the service provider’s ability to recognise and understand the nature of CSE. There are examples of good practice where areas have invested heavily in training, education and resourcing the issue of CSE and are able to adequately support young people.

The witness intermediary scheme set up by the Ministry Of Justice (MOJ) provides specially trained and accredited professional communication specialists and has assisted many cases that would not have otherwise gone to trial, the MOJ is continuing efforts to improve special measures that would enable witness’s to provide evidence early in the prosecution process.

Aside from this, there is still much that needs to improve. I recently consulted with force senior investigating officers (SIO’s) in a number of GGCSE cases where victims have given evidence in court; this raised a number of significant issues as mentioned below which I discussed with and followed up in writing to the Attorney General, in keeping with the consideration for victims experiences in the Government’s “Tackling CSE Action Plan” I have updated the children’s minister Tim Loughton, MP following on from this.

The main issues identified from my consultation with SIO’s are identified as:

1. Maintaining an overview of how judges who preside over GGCSE cases consider applying the various special measures for vulnerable witnesses.

2. Supporting efforts to enable victims attending court to be free of contact with defendants or their supporters.

3. Ensuring good practice is consistently applied in familiarising victims with the court environment, in advance of a trial, so that they are not subject to avoidable additional stress at the time of the trial.

4. Reviewing how the Criminal Procedure & Investigations Act disclosure process is applied to looked-after children so that they are not placed at an unjust disadvantage.

5. Reviewing the timelines for compensation of victims so that the issues of giving evidence to support a prosecution, and exercising the right to seek compensation, do not create a dilemma for victims or prosecutors.

Issue four is currently due to be discussed at an Inter-Ministerial Meeting regarding the Exchange of Information in the Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse Cases, called for by the Attorney General and Lynne Featherstone, MP.

In terms of addressing issues with the judiciary, I meet regularly with representative judges on these matters, and at CEOP we offer opportunities to share knowledge with the judiciary through training and awareness seminars.

Whether front-line agencies are adequately equipped to identify victims and intervene at an early stage

There is a good deal of work ongoing across the agencies, further to the ACPO CSE Action Plan I mentioned earlier, ACPO supported by CEOP are compiling a toolkit for investigators to help them adopt successful disruption tactics and communicate best practice in order to secure prosecutions in CSE cases. It is likely that this information will be available to officers through the Police Online Knowledge Area (POLKA) in due course. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) in conjunction with, and at ACPO’s request has also funded and produced a new awareness training DVD for front line police officers dealing with gang related CSE, the video follows a recent “Eastenders” story line and the actress from the soap opera also stars in the video. This DVD is due to be launched September/October 12 and cascaded to police forces.

ACPO are also working with the University of Brighton to produce guidance for police forces regarding the risk assessment of victims and offenders involved in CSE. This work is ongoing and data will be requested from forces towards the end of September 2012. This Guidance is due to be launched in January 2013.

CEOP have provided bespoke training to police and other agencies in specific relation to missing children and highlighting this as one of the key indicators for CSE. Furthermore CEOP have hosted a number of CSE seminars attended by some 205 delegates and the launch of the Thematic Assessment “Out of Mind, Out of sight” launch for stakeholders was attended by 50 delegates.

I am also aware that the Department for Health (DH) has reviewed its training for health professionals and in March 2012 they released a training package which includes specific areas to meet the needs of women and children who are victims of violence and abuse. The DH has also developed two films on CSE which are aimed at Children and Young People; these are available on the NHS choices website. The DH also has a programme of work to improve the development of Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) services, drawing attention to the special circumstances of children who have been sexually exploited.

There are some good examples of best practice in dealing with CSE such as in Lancashire where a multi agency approach has been adopted. Many other local authorities are following this lead, setting up multi-agency dedicated CSE teams who provide a holistic service for children vulnerable to CSE. There are other areas however that have not matched the commitment to dealing with CSE as a standalone issue and the responsibility remains with frontline practitioners. This may be related to resources or funding, but also may be indicative that CSE is not seen as a priority in some areas. The 2009 Guidance on “Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation” states that “LSCB’s should assume sexual exploitation occurs within its area unless there is clear evidence to the contrary”. There is a clear need to ensure all agencies are doing their best to adhere to these guidelines and tackle CSE.

The extent to which Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) have implemented key aspects of national guidance on child sexual exploitation, including the quality of partnership working between LSCBs, care services and police within and between local authority areas

As referred to above the 2009 Guidance “Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation” directs LSCB’s a responsibility to ensure that agencies are provided with training on how to identify the warning signs and vulnerabilities associated with CSE. In 2010 the National Working Group (NWG) reviewed how the guidance has been implemented and revealed that less than a quarter of areas have the required multi agency protocols. This is now improving; research from Barnardo’s suggests that in April 2012 almost two thirds of England’s 152 Local Authorities had pledged commitment to develop action plans for CSE.

There are also improvements across the board in partnership working with more areas adopting the MASH or a similar model to facilitate the sharing of information and deal with safeguarding more effectively. There are examples of good practice as referred to in the above response regarding the Lancashire model and the frontline agencies ability to identify and intervene in CSE cases at an earlier stage. The same issues regarding a lack commitment to CSE in other areas, as referred to above are again relevant to the extent that LSCB’s have implemented guidance.

The recent progress report on the implementation of the governments “Tackling CSE Action Plan” also indicates that progress by LSCB’s is being made, there remains however, much to be done to ensure this progress continues.

The circumstances under which care services report missing children to the police

The link between missing children and CSE was highlighted in the OCC’s accelerated report and evidenced further by recent high profile cases such as in Operation Retriever in Derbyshire. Each year there is an estimated 200,000 people who go missing, children and young people account for 64% of all missing reports and research suggests that a quarter of these suffer some form of abuse whilst missing. Whilst it is unknown how many children have become victims of CSE specifically from these figures, the OCC’s accelerated report indicated that looked after children are disproportionately represented in known cases of GGCSE. However, that children outside of the care system are also victims of CSE. The government has acknowledged the recommendations made in the OCC’s accelerated report and are taking immediate action to:

Work with local authorities to ensure there is much clearer data about children who go missing from care, and who may be at risk of CSE. This will identify what more needs to be done to protect children in care and reduce the numbers that go missing.

Develop a risk analysis map of those areas with a high concentration of care homes

There will be expectations on the care home to collaborate with police where a child is at risk of running away or being sexually exploited.

Enable Ofsted to share information about the location of children’s homes with police and there will be a responsibility on the part of the local authority to satisfy itself that the placements are appropriate to meet the needs of the child and their safety. Ofsted have also agreed with partners to develop a joint framework for multi agency inspection of services for the protection of children in local authority areas, likely to be implemented in 201314.

Address the quality of children’s homes and develop a free and develop a plan for significant improvements, including the qualifications and skills of the workforce.

The circumstances in which looked after children are reported missing to the police by care services does vary regionally. ACPO and the NPIA have supported a series of pilots in four police force areas across the country. The pilots implement new definitions of “Missing” and “Absent” and use systems aimed to improve safeguarding, effectiveness and efficiency in case management for children who go missing from care.

The pilot schemes took place over a 3 month period and although they have concluded the areas in which they were implemented continue to use the model. There are other forces that have also heard of the benefits and are keen to progress proposed changes in their force areas. The results of the pilot and proposals around changes to current guidance are being assessed by ACPO currently, when decisions on this have been progressed, consideration will be given to the need for a review of the ACPO Guidance on Missing 2010.

The quality of data collection, data sharing and research on child victims of localised grooming

Collecting data and scoping the extent and nature of the problem of CSE in local areas is the most effective way to identify where and how CSE takes place. The governments “Tackling CSE Action Plan” states that LSCB’s should put in place systems to monitor prevalence and response to CSE within their area, however many services that come into contact with potential/known victims including LSCB’s do not collate data.

Over half of the 100 LSCB’s surveyed reported that they were not recording any data on CSE and as evidenced in CEOP’s Thematic Assessment “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, the way in which police record and capture such data does not lend itself to the straightforward identification of relevant cases. There is a need to improve data recording systems. Statutory agencies should collect data and undertake risk assessments of the problems in their area. Such data will identify common forms of grooming and abuse and highlight hotspots, data could also indicate whether there are links to CSE taking place in other areas.

A data monitoring tool has been developed by the University of Bedfordshire with the intention of capturing this data, the tool was developed following an excess of 100 interviews with practitioners and it aims to record the prevalence and nature of CSE. The tool and its guidance has been circulated to all LSCB’s and relevant voluntary and community sector organisations.

CEOP as the strategic lead for GGCSE, supported by the relevant agencies intends to manage a collection and analysis of annual data on the nature and prevalence of GGCSE using the above mentioned data monitoring tool. The centre will also have sight of related police operations and along with other statutory and non statutory agencies will report in the form of strategic assessments.

In relation to data collection and reporting on looked after children, ACPO, CEOP and other agencies are working with the DfE to look at what data should be collated and reported to ministers at weekly meetings. Although this is not specific to looked after children who are victims or at risk of CSE these issues are being considered within the consultation.

Throughout my response to this Inquiry I have highlighted the variety of current and ongoing research in this field. There is a huge assortment of ongoing work and as is important in all aspects of CSE, the sharing of information and a multi agency approach is absolutely vital to addressing the problem.

The degree of coordination between the Department for Education’s child sexual exploitation strategy and the Home Office’s human trafficking strategy

In addition to the responses you have received from the DfE and Home Office in relation to their assurances that the links between trafficking and CSE are highlighted, thus ensuring a consistent and a coordinated approach. I feel that it is relevant to echo that this same approach is adopted by CEOP and its liaison with UKHTC regarding responsibilities around CSE and Trafficking.

I have previously mentioned that in April 2012 a Memorandum of Understanding between CEOP and UKHTC was signed. This set out the respective roles for the two centres in dealing with children who are trafficked into or within the UK for the purposes of CSE. The agreement reflects the different expertise of the two organisations and that people are trafficked into and within the UK for a variety of reasons, of which CSE is just one. The memorandum of understanding provides a supportive framework for CEOP and the UKHTC to work together.

The UKHTC has expertise in all matters relating the trafficking of persons and from April 2012 UKHTC became the primary agency with responsibility for advising on investigations relating to children being trafficked across the border into the UK for the purpose of CSE. CEOP has primary responsibility for advising on investigations relating to the trafficking of children within the UK for the purpose of CSE. CEOP and UKHTC continue to liaise on aspects of CSE and with both law enforcement and government agencies in the respective areas of responsibility.

10 September 2012

Prepared 29th January 2014