A revised framework setting out how agencies across the West Midlands will work together to protect children from sexual exploitation (CSE) has been launched.
The framework is designed to provide a consistent approach to identifying and responding to CSE across the seven West Midlands local authority areas – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton and by West Midlands Police and partner organisations.
It aims to ensure those children or young people being sexually exploited, or at risk of being sexually exploited, are identified as early as possible. Also, that they are listened to and receive effective and timely support to meet their needs to prevent the abuse from happening, or continuing.
Together, agencies will work to identify key locations and take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people by disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators.
The initial framework was launched 12 months ago. This updated version reflects the operational experience of how it’s worked on the ground, what worked well and how agencies can work more effectively together in the future.
People from the public and voluntary sectors and partner organisations who are working across the region to protect children attended the launch. They were given an overview of the framework by the regional lead on preventing violence against vulnerable people, Stephen Rimmer.
Stephen Rimmer said:
“I am clear this framework has been seriously road-tested operationally over the last 12 months and reflects major learning nationally and locally over that period.
“There is strong commitment from the agencies to work together to protect our children and to hold the abusers to account – but we need to work better with young people, parents and communities.
“We know that transparency in addressing the CSE threat is important for public confidence, as well as sending a clear message to perpetrators who thrive on the secrecy and shame this horrible crime still generates.
“The latest figures show that there are now 720 girls and boys on our “risk radar” – this is much closer to the real figure than ever before and we are collectively determined to do all we can to protect them all, and to bear down on the 372 suspected offenders also identified.
“We have more to do, but we are getting to grips with this serious problem, and putting the framework in place will be another major step forward.”
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council, added:
“Our work over the last 12 months has brought together public organisations and groups to share good practice and understand the causes and impacts of child sexual exploitation.
“The framework is another important staging post in tackling those who commit sexual crimes against children and young people, and most importantly, how we as a society protect children and young from this horrendous abuse.
“We need to be very clear that the framework is just that, it is now down to the professionalism, skill and purpose of all of us to apply and assess its impact over the coming months.”
At the launch there was also a preview of the refreshed website, due to go live later this week, which is part of the regional See Me, Hear Me campaign. The campaign was launched last year to raise awareness of CSE and how to spot the warning signs.
The site will be a one-stop shop for information, help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools. Each audience will have its own area, tailored specifically to them.
An innovative new feature is an interactive film which follows a girl at risk of exploitation. The viewer makes decisions about how her story develops, the choices she makes and how it ends.
It aims to not only help raise awareness of CSE among young people but to be a focus for discussion about CSE between parents, carers, schools or professionals and young people.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner councillor Yvonne Mosquito said:
“The police working together with partner agencies is a hugely important part of tackling child sexual exploitation.
“Bringing ‘hidden’ crimes like child sexual exploitation into the open is also crucial. We should not be afraid to talk about difficult issues like this. The See Me, Hear Me campaign is bringing this important issue out into the open.
“Protecting young people is a top priority of the police, as is prosecuting the perpetrators of these crimes.”
Councillor Ann Lucas, leader of Coventry City Council and the Local Government Association’s National Domestic Violence Champion, added:
“Safeguarding our children is our top priority and no child should ever be the victim of such horrific abuse.
“All people working to protect children across the region are committed to tackling CSE. Through this framework we are all working to common standards of reporting and investigation, which will not only help protect our children but bring the perpetrators to court.”
The revised framework can be viewed here: West Midlands CSE Regional Framework
The refreshed website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk is due to go live later this week.
For further details or to arrange an interview with Stephen Rimmer contact:
Katherine Finney or Anthea Jones
01384 815227 or 01384 818216