Home Affairs CommitteeSupplementary written evidence from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council [LCG 24a]

I am responding to your request for further information as set out in your letter to me of the 30th January. I would also refer you to my letter to Mr Vaz of 18 January 2013. Before answering the specific questions, I thought it would be useful to describe more broadly our response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. As you will know, from the more general picture across the country, in recent years there has been growing professional and public awareness of child sexual exploitation as a form of child abuse. DfE publications such “Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation” (2009); the revised “Working Together 2010” and “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan” (2011) and the progress report of July 2012, make reference to areas of work that were formerly less well understood. The development of our services in Rotherham has taken into account the various forms of government guidance; new legislation which has enabled the police and local authorities to develop best practice in respect of safeguarding children and young people and has resulted in enforcement action in respect of people who are suspected of being engaged in child sexual exploitation; and the practice being developed in other local authority areas.

It has become obvious in our work on preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation that we require information from a variety of sources in order to build up intelligence and evidence that enables us to establish risk to the child or young person, and to take enforcement action, or criminal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators. This can come from multiple sources and build up over time. As a result, our collection and analysis of data is becoming more focussed on incidents that can be assessed as involving child sexual exploitation, although many of the young people we come across have multiple factors in their lives which need to be recorded.

For example, incidents which may in the past have been viewed as antisocial behaviour are now subject to the CSE Screening Tool which builds up a picture of young people with a number of risk factors indicating that they may be at risk of CSE. These young people are then referred to our preventive programmes, whereas for young people where it is assessed that they are at risk of significant harm through CSE, a qualified practitioner starts work with them immediately.

While your letter refers to “localised grooming” our team also receives referrals and information about other forms of child sexual exploitation, including incidents which have occurred through social networking, “boyfriend/girlfriend” relationships; and young people’s relationships which show signs of domestic abuse. This means that “localised grooming” is part of the caseload of our CSE team rather than representing their entire workload.

I hope this information proves useful as a background to the answers to your questions below.

1. What methods do you use to “disrupt” child sexual exploitation in the form of “ localised grooming”.

We take “localised grooming” to be based on the CEOP definition from 2011.

“localised grooming is a form of sexual exploitation, previously referred to as “on street grooming” by the media where children have been groomed or sexually exploited by an offender having initially met in a location outside their home. This location is usually in public, such as a park, cinema, on the street, or at a friend’s house. Offenders often act together, establishing a relationship with a child before sexually exploiting them. Some victims of street grooming may believe that the offender is in fact an older boyfriend. These victims introduce their peers to the offender group who might then go on to be sexually exploited as well. Abuse may occur at a number of locations within a region and on several occasions. Localised grooming was a term used by CEOP in the intelligence requests issued to police forces and other service agencies in order to define the data we (CEOP) wished to receive”

The first stage in this work is to raise professional and public awareness and we have done this by delivering multi-agency professional training through the Rotherham LSCB. By January 2013 875 professionals have attended training workshops and our elected members have been fully briefed on this area of work. Further awareness raising training has been organised to ensure senior managers in all local authority Directorates, LSCB, Children, Young People and Families Partnership are fully briefed on the indicators of CSE and how and when to share information. Our updated CSE Strategy and Action Plan reflects the roles and responsibilities of all departments within the local authority and how we can all ensure that CSE is reported and responded to appropriately.

The second stage in this work is to gather sufficient information for the police and the local authority to share and analyse to establish whether and where there is a risk to young people of “localised grooming” which might result in them being victims of child sexual exploitation.

The techniques the police use to disrupt “localised grooming” include:

High visibility patrols in identified areas of the town including vehicle and person checks.

“Abduction Notices” (further details below).

Management of specific identified areas, eg making the green spaces in Rotherham safer by planting them less densely and preventing exploitation being conducted in secrecy; and the location of official and unofficial taxi bays.

“Risk of Sexual Harm Orders”. This is a civil order to manage and restrict the lifestyle of an individual who has not been convicted of an offence. Rotherham has one “Risk of Sexual Harm Order” in place and we are applying for another. During the same period, one Risk of Sexual Harm Order (ROSHO) has been obtained. This particular offender was a lone female who posed as a young male on Facebook to contact young girls. She breached the ROSHO and was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years, a two-year supervision requirement, 150 hours of unpaid work and Sex Offenders Registration.

Specific operations, where although disclosures have not been made , there could be a risk to children and young people, for example taxis and limousines carrying children (mainly girls) to proms.

Joint working between Safer Neighbourhood Teams and Detached Youth Workers where information had come to our attention that young people were congregating at a car wash, we didn’t identify CSE at that time, but engaged young people in discussion about staying safe.

The impact of the disruption work is to make potential perpetrators aware that the police are observing their activities and deter them from approaching children and young people; identifying where children and young people are in cars, properties or on the street with adults who are not their parents or carers. The police take protective action and refer to the front line social care assessment team immediately. Young people found through these means and through engagement with youth workers and the CSE team are referred for assessment and specialist support.

2. How many attrition visits have you made in (a) 2010, (b) 2011 and (c) 2012?

The process of “attrition visits” is a tactic that has been developed specifically to target persons known to police where intelligence suggests they are actively involved in committing serious acquisitive crime. That intelligence, often supported by information from offender management processes, justifies assertive police action to intervene, disrupt and wherever possible prevent offending behaviour.

Outside the existing CSE referral processes, four intelligence packages have been developed over the last 12-months around individuals who may be at risk of engaging in CSE. Each of these cases, being intelligence rather than evidence-based, has been the subject to attrition visits by members of the Public Protection Unit (PPU). One individual, who refused to engage with police, was the subject of attrition visits for some time without successfully proving any intelligence. Such cases are further developed through more assertive policing tactics.

3. In your letter dated 18 January 2013 you told the Committee that you had issued 84 abduction notices since 2008. Please could you tell us in more detail how many abduction notices have you issued in (a) 2010, (b) 2011 and (c) 2012

We take “Abduction Notice” to be a Child Abduction Warning Notice, which identifies the child/young person and confirms that they should not be with a specific adult and that that adult has no permission to associate with or to contact or communicate with the child. If the adult continues to do so, they may be arrested and prosecuted for an offence under Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 or Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1989, or for any other criminal offence committed in relation to that child.

Where evidence emerges or where the child or young person provides evidence of an inappropriate association, positive action is taken against the person responsible, including arrest, search of property and presentation of any available evidence to the CPS.

Serving Child Abduction Warning Notices is becoming a standard practice through our CSE team. In 2010, 35 notices were issued; in 2011, 34 notices were issued; in 2012 15 notices were issued. By the end of 2012, a total of 84 remain active; and by February 2013, there were 105 active. Similar warnings, guidance and referrals are made with the child or young person, and/or parents or guardians to ensure all future contact with that person ceases. Such notices and interventions tend to be used where arrest/prosecution for any substantive offences is not available or is inappropriate at that time.

4. How many taxi licences have been revoked or refused in relation to localised grooming in (a) 2010, (b) 2011 and (c) 2012?

Where information has been shared about the risk of CSE involving a specific named taxi driver or a potential taxi driver, this is discussed at the CSE Strategy Meeting and action agreed. Based on good practice elsewhere we have put training in place for taxi drivers to raise their awareness of their roles and responsibilities in respect of vulnerable adults, children and young people. This was devised jointly with LSCB’s and the South Yorkshire Joint Licensing Action Group.

In response to your question about revocation and refusal, this falls into three categories below:

The number of taxi licenses revoked in 2010) 0, 2011) 1, 2012) 0
The number of Taxi licenses refused because of concerns relating to child welfare 2010) 0, 2011) 1, 2012) 0
The number of Taxi licenses were suspended 2010) 0, 2011) 0, 2012) 2

Of the two suspensions, one is likely to lead to revocation, the other licence was voluntarily surrendered post suspension. I covered this in my letter to Mr Vaz on 18 January.

5. We received evidence that 18 Rotherham taxi drivers were arrested in relation to localised grooming activity last year and yet according to your letter dated 18 January only four licences were suspended in the past two years. If these taxi drivers were arrested in relation to child sexual exploitation then why were they not all immediately suspended

This is incorrect information and I am unsure on what basis it has been said.

Having discussed this with South Yorkshire Police colleagues we believe the arrests that may have been referred to were made in 2011 in relation to Operation Chard where there were 15 men arrested. Of these, one was a taxi driver and he immediately had his licence suspended and then revoked. This is shown in the figures I have provided above. In relation to other suspects, none was in an occupation where action could be considered under complementary legislation (such as the licensing acts) in addition to traditional criminal justice system routes. It is not the case that if taxi drivers are suspected of offences relating to safeguarding issues that the Council and the Police take no action. Regretfully false information of this type, no matter how well-meaning start to become common currency and paint a picture of potential perpetrators and Council and Police inaction that erodes public confidence.

6. How many takeaway licences have been revoked or refused in relation to localised grooming in (a) 2010, (b) 2011 and (c) 2012?

There have been no takeaway licences revoked during 2010, 2011 and 2012. There is no current evidence to support the need to do so on the grounds of CSE, however given the national picture relating to CSE and takeaway food outlets, if information comes to light, the local authority and the police would take appropriate action. Information has been produced to assist the public in passing relevant information to the police and local authority if they have concerns.

7. How many licences relating to the sale of liquor have been revoked or refused in relation to localised grooming in (a) 2010, (b) 2011 and (c) 2012?

There have been no liquor licences revoked for 2010, 2011 and 2012 in relation to child sexual exploitation per se.

However one premise, had its licence revoked in March 2010 because of concerns relating to the protection of children. This was in relation to underage drinking and drunkenness.

There is no current evidence to support the need to revoke or refuse licences on the grounds of CSE. However given the national picture relating CSE to licenced premises, if information comes to light, the local authority and the police would take appropriate action. Information has been produced to assist the public in passing relevant information to the police and local authority if they have concerns.

8. Did Denis MacShane, whilst he was still MP for Rotherham, contact you to request a report on the issue of localised grooming in the area? If yes, please provide us with a copy of that report.

Denis MacShane did not contact us to request a report in relation to localised grooming therefore there is no report to provide.

9. When we asked you about multi-agency working, you told us that this had been set up 9 months ago. Can you tell us which agencies are involved in your multi-agency working model, how many representatives there are from each agency and how long each of them has been in place?

The following explains in summary the development of our children’s sexual exploitation activity:-

(i)For some years, young people thought to be at risk of CSE were supported through “Risky Business” an organisation set up in 1996 to support young people in Rotherham, which became part of our mainstream Youth Service in 2007.

(ii)In 2010, when “Operation Central” began, Risky Business was expanded to include two experienced Youth Workers from the Youth Offending Service to provide one to one support to young people identified as being at risk.

(iii)In July 2010 Rotherham’s Parenting Advisory Service added a Parent Support Worker to the Risky Business Team to support parents and carers who were worried about their child being at risk of CSE.

(iv)In September 2010, Rotherham MBC appointed a qualified, experienced social worker as Safeguarding Co-ordinator for CSE. This post ensured continuity to investigations and CSE work with children and young people.

(v)In May 2011, this social worker became the team manager of “Risky Business”, working jointly with the CSE Police Officer, the Police Missing Person’s officer and “Safe at Last” a local runaway’s charity. The Police strengthened their designated PC input from part time to full time.

(vi)In the months following her appointment the Team Manager further strengthened multi-agency working by having direct contact with the Detective Inspector at the Public Protection Unit (with responsibility for child sexual exploitation, child abuse, missing persons). At this point regular discussions began on a monthly basis around developing a multiagency team which could be co-located in order to follow best practice in other areas, which was fully researched jointly by Police and the Team Manager.
As can be seen we developed a way of working collaboratively with other agencies throughout this period and it gradually became more sophisticated. However, it was in May 2012 that our collaborative working developed to the point that the way we worked with other agencies made a sufficiently strong routine, pattern and structure to it that it could genuinely be termed as two or more associated partners working together in a conjoined way.

(vii)In May 2012 we restructured our Risky Business team into our Child Sexual Exploitation Team further to recommendations from the Child S serious case review. You will recall I explained in my last letter that the Risky Business model had been criticised for not having a strong child protection base.
At this time we further strengthened our multi-agency working through regular information sharing meetings with the police and health agencies.

(viii)In May 2012 a formal restructure of the CSE team took place. Following this, work began to recruit two qualified social workers to join the team, although it was supported in the interim by my general safeguarding unit pending formal recruitment. The interviews took place in the summer of 2012 and the two workers joined the Team Manager, Connexions Worker, Parenting Worker and Youth Workers as part of the CSE Team in September 2012.

In my last letter I drew attention to the Ofsted inspection of the Council’s safeguarding activity that occurred in August 2012. This made clear reference to the improvements we has made to our CSE service, and which showed clear evidence of the impact our multi-agency working had delivered between May up until the inspection. This gave us further confidence to take the next step to move from multi-agency working to a model where we could have agencies operating from the same room, sharing systems, data and real time intelligence to agree support and interventions for young people.

(ix)On 1 October 2012 the team became fully co-located in the Public Protection Unit in Rotherham. The Team Manager of the CSE team is managed by the Service Manager responsible for front line duty and assessment social care services, and recording is carried out on the social care electronic recording system.

(x)The CSE team consists of a Team Manager, three qualified social workers, a parent worker, and two part time youth workers; together with two Detective Constables, one Police Constable and one Detective Sergeant from March 2013; and a Community Health Nurse from April 2013.

(xi)We also have the services of a Psychology student evaluating our preventative work in schools since last October.

10. In your letter dated 18 January you said that you have been delivering informal education programmes in all Rotherham Secondary schools. How many schools did they visit in 2012? And how many schools are there under the purview of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council?

Rotherham has 16 secondary schools, 5 special schools and three pupil referral units where we deliver education programmes to raise awareness of what CSE is, and helping young people to identify what positive relationships look like, carried out as part of the PHSE programme. In 2012 we delivered programmes in 7 secondary schools, 1 special school and 1 pupil referral unit. This is a rolling programme and all secondary schools and PRU’s will have had a programme by the close of the summer term 2013.

We also deliver programmes to our children’s homes, voluntary sector housing providers and alternative education providers. Staff from the CSE team have spoken at both primary and secondary schools forums and to headteachers; and delivered the key note speech on promoting resilience to reduce vulnerability in the 2012 Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health in Rotherham Schools Conference. This was to over 100 schools and associated health colleagues.

As you will appreciate Rotherham MBC strongly supports the drive by the Home Affairs Select Committee to ensure child sexual exploitation is tackled. The Select Committee will be instrumental in drawing together the lessons to be learned from history and in helping all agencies to make a step change in improving their CSE services.

It would act against the interests of vulnerable children and families if an impression is created in the mind of those needing services that the Council and others will turn their back on them and not take matters seriously.

I have previously said that I believe performance in the past was simply not strong enough and it was only from about 2009 that greater national professional awareness began to crystallise about the nature of child sexual exploitation and the potential responses to it.

But there is strong and independent evidence from Ofsted as recently as last August that the Council has improved. Whilst there is still things that need to improve I am anxious that the public of Rotherham feel confident that they can report any matters of concern they may have to us and that we will provide help and support to them.

I have shared with you the intelligence we have jointly with the Police and other agencies relating to current levels of risk, and the active operations that are underway. Any inference there are currently hundreds of young people in Rotherham town centre that are being sexually exploited and which the Council and Police will not tackle is not borne out by evidence. You have my personal commitment in ensuring the Council will support young people and families that need help will get it, and that the Council will do whatever it can working with others to protect young people and identify and bring perpetrators to justice.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Kimber,
Chief Executive
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

18 February 2013

Prepared 29th January 2014