COUNCIL support for services dealing with child sex exploitation will not be reduced, even in the climate of budget cuts, a committee has been assured.
Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee met tonight to discuss an annual report into CSE in the district, and heard about the efforts being made to tackle the issue.
Councillor Val Slater, portfolio holder for Health and Wellbeing on the Council, told the committee that while the authority faced an ever-tightening budget, there were no plans to reduce resources available to the Child Safeguarding Hub, a partnership between the Council, children’s charities and the police.
The report revealed that there had been a 61 per cent rise in the number of suspected child sexual grooming cases reported to the Bradford’s hub in the 12 months to April 2017. In that time there were 1,153 referrals, up from 713 in 2015-16 and 431 in 2014-15.
The number of crimes recorded by police also went up by 34 per cent to 367.
Representatives from the Council, Barnardos and West Yorkshire Police were at the meeting to answer questions from councillors.
Members were told about some of the hub’s success stories, including one instance when a premises that was due to host a “large scale, unregulated teenage party” was closed over CSE fears, and another where a member of the public raised suspicions about two teenage girls getting out the car of a middle-aged man and entering a building on Thornton Road. Three men were arrested.
Discussing the successes of the hub, Cllr Slater said: “This report demonstrates the strong partnership that we have developed to deal with the issue.
“Even in the climate of budget cuts and limited resources available to councils, we have never, and won’t ever, consider this an area where we would pull resources from. I just want to put that on the table.”
Superintendent Damian Miller, of West Yorkshire Police, said there were a number of reasons for recorded crimes rising in the past year. He said: “I believe it is a sign of the success in raising awareness of CSE, and better partnership work to identify such incidents.
“There is increased awareness of CSE in communities and increased confidence in coming forward to report incidents.”
He said in the past year there had been 66 arrests and there were eight investigations currently ongoing. A number of the reported crimes were classed as “historic” or having been committed over a year ago.
The report broke down the progress of the reported crimes.
When asked about the fact that in 14 incidents where a suspect had been named, further action was “not deemed in the public interest” Supt Miller said recent changes to the law meant an underage teenager “sexting” another underage teenager was classed as a sexual offence. He added: “If you have two young people who are sending images to each other, not understanding the seriousness of what they’re doing, do we really want to criminalise them? We will talk to them and support them, but it might not be in the public interest to treat them like criminals.”
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He said another issue was that victims did not always see themselves as being victims. The report shows that in 30 reported CSE cases in the past year the victim either declined or was unable to identify the offender, and in 25 cases a suspect was identified but the victim either declined to support the police investigation or withdrew their support.