Ofsted: CSE not been enough of a priority

Watchdog says says local arrangements to tackle problem are insufficiently developed

Published on 19th November 2014

Sad girl

Child Sexual Exploitation has not been treated with the priority it deserves, according to a report by Ofsted.

The watchdog says local arrangements to tackle the problem are often insufficiently developed and the leadership required is frequently lacking.

“Part of the problem lies in the fact that some professionals have simply failed to properly apply child protection processes to young people at risk of being sexually exploited,” says the report. “This is one important reason why the prevalence of child sexual exploitation is still not well understood, even in places that have experienced high profile cases.”

LSCBs have shown poor leadership

Many authorities are only now getting to grips with the issue in their area and only began to start addressing CSE at strategic level in the past 12 months despite statutory guidance being published more than five years ago.

Where child sexual exploitation has had a higher priority, the local strategy is better developed with links to other related strategies such as gangs and PSE in schools and senior leaders and local politicians tend to have greater insight and understanding of this complex issue.

However, too often, Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs) have shown poor leadership. They have failed to adequately challenge slow progress in developing both child sexual exploitation strategies and meaningful action plans.

The Ofsted report highlighted some examples of good practice as a result of the skills, knowledge and expertise of individual professionals working within the local partnership.

But inspectors also found:-

-          Care plans drawn up to protect children from sexual exploitation are ineffective

-          Poor management

-          Disjointed partnership action between agencies

-          Ineffectual data as the data collected by many police forces does not allow for the collation of reported crime and prosecutions that are specifically linked to child sexual exploitation.

-          Training on CSE is good but insufficient professionals are receiving it.


“Not enough local authorities are systematically making the connection between child sexual exploitation and children who are missing from school.”

Inspectors found a wide range of initiatives aimed at increasing young people’s understanding of child sexual exploitation and several had developed specific campaigns to raise awareness of this issue. Some of this work is being delivered well through schools whereas other authorities were developing a targeted approach to vulnerable young people.

The report also raises concerns that nearly two years after Ofsted published a report on looked after children who go missing, many local authorities are still failing in their duty of care to this group of vulnerable children. Not enough local authorities are systematically making the connection between child sexual exploitation and children who are missing from school.

“Many organisations have had to act decisively to learn the lessons from recent cases and to apply their increased understanding to ensure that this type of sexual abuse is dealt with more effectively. Ofsted is no exception. Child sexual exploitation is something inspectors now focus on much more closely under the arrangements for inspecting local authority child protection and looked after children's services that came into effect a year ago,” says the report.

“It is hoped that the findings of this in-depth thematic inspection will further strengthen the understanding of both leaders and frontline practitioners so that children at risk of being sexually exploited can be assured of the support and protection that they deserve,” it adds.

Government guidance should be updated

The report recommends that all local authorities and partner agencies develop and publish a child sexual exploitation action plan that fully reflects the 2009 supplementary guidance. Information and intelligence should be shared proactively across the partnership to improve the protection of children in the area and increase the rate of prosecutions.

Local Safeguarding Children‘s Boards should ensure that the local authority and its partners have a comprehensive action plan in place and hold partners to account for the urgency and priority they give to their collective and individual contribution to the child sexual exploitation action plan.

LSCBs should also ensure that appropriate training on CSE is available for all professionals with specialist training targeted at those working with young people at risk of or suffering from child sexual exploitation.

The government should review and update the 2009 Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation; supplementary guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children. This should reflect recent research, good practice and findings from reviews and criminal investigations. It should also develop a national data set that requires local authorities, the police and their partners to report on all prevention, protection and prosecution activity relating to child sexual exploitation in their area to a standard format.

In addition, every police force should collate information specifically on child sexual exploitation, including the number of crimes reported, the level of disruption activity undertaken and outcomes, including cautions and prosecutions.

The watchdog also pledges to ensure that child sexual exploitation is considered within the safeguarding sections of all future inspection frameworks and across all remits.

The sexual exploitation of children: it couldn’t happen here could it? is available here


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