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Scandal of potential Birmingham child sexual exploitation victims NOT being recorded in city figures

In the last year the officials say there are 20,000 children at risk of being groomed. Yet just three years earlier the figure they provided was 12,000. The local governments in this area agreed to provide information every three months, but the last time they provided information to the police was 16 months ago.

From: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/scandal-birmingham-child-sexual-exploitation-15463781

Children from across the UK falling victim to abuse after being placed in Birmingham care homes are NOT being counted in the city’s official CSE figures.

The youngsters are classed as ‘out of borough kids’ and their ordeals are only officially recorded on a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) register by their home authority.

Critics claim the system means the full picture of CSE in the city is being skewed, with social workers and police often unaware of the presence of victims in Birmingham.

One source said: “Birmingham statutory agencies are not told out of borough kids are here at times. They don’t know until they go missing.

“Police manage investigations happening in Birmingham if involving out of borough victims, but the council don’t have any duty at all. It’s a joke.

“The Telford authorities have mentioned Birmingham a lot, with kids being trafficked in Birmingham through New Street, one of the biggest train stations in the UK.”

Birmingham City Council confirmed that there are currently 984 out of borough kids in Birmingham.

Earlier this month, official statistics revealed nearly 500 city youngsters were identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation in the last year.

Those are broken down into three categories, starting from ‘at risk’ and then ‘significant risk’ and finally the highest level: at ‘serious risk’.

The number of children in the ‘significant’ and ‘serious risk’ categories in Birmingham is said to fluctuate at around 100 – but out-of-borough kids placed in care homes or foster care are not included in that figure.

“Police manage crimes in Birmingham, but not the child’s risk profile in terms of CSE,” the source explained.

“Other areas do because they are smaller. But, simply put, there are hundreds of out of borough children placed in Birmingham that the police and the city council don’t know of. That’s scary.

“It’s down to the child’s local area to tell police and council about them moving into the area.”

Iryna Pona, Policy and Research Manager with The Children’s Society, said: “Being a distance away from your support networks of family and friends makes children in out-of-area placements vulnerable to being groomed for sexual and criminal exploitation.

“We know that many of them are going missing and often not being interviewed once they’ve returned to find out why they went, and what happened to them while they were missing.

“It is important that councils placing a looked-after child away from their home area make sure they inform that area of the needs of the child and any risks they may be experiencing, including the risk of them going missing or being exploited.

“It is also important that councils where children are placed are making sure that they safeguard all children living in their area, including those looked after by other local authorities.”

Meanwhile, police and councils have been accused of failing CSE victims by not publishing quarterly offender profiles for more than a YEAR.

The crucial West Midlands reports, which include intelligence on suspected perpetrators and locations of alleged abuse, should be made public once every three months.

But the Birmingham Mail discovered that neither police nor the seven West Midlands councils have published the quarterly reports since July 2017.

After going to the authorities individually, we received some CSE information, including the fact that an eight-year-old girl was among the 140 youngsters classed as ‘at risk’ in Wolverhampton.

Yet the lack of published and co-ordinated reports means that crucial information about total numbers of children at risk, details of suspected offenders and places of abuse are not being made public – keeping victims and their families in the dark.

The Birmingham Mail first campaigned for the publication of the reports and offender profiles back in 2015. West Midlands Police and councils in Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Dudley and Solihull later agreed to publish them once every three months.

Previously published reports contained intelligence from police officers and social workers about the total numbers of children ‘at risk’ of CSE, including those at ‘serious’ risk.

They also gave an insight into offender profiles and, crucially, highlighted the types of locations where abuse was taking place, including takeaways, parks, hotels, shopping precincts and supermarkets.

Sources claim the lack of regular published reports means intelligence that might be relevant today could be lost.

It is understood a number of hotels and B&Bs in the city have been identified as having seen CSE incidents, including one where ‘parties’ with young girls were staged.

Other suspected businesses include some shisha bars and dessert shops.

The office of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson says each of the seven councils is responsible for its own CSE report.

They should be collated by Solihull Council every three months and passed on to West Midlands Police to publish on its website.

The last CSE report published by West Midlands Police was in July 2017. It showed:

* Across the West Midlands there were 1,185 children identified as at risk of, or experiencing, CSE.

* That total was up from 1,059 in the previous quarter.

* In Birmingham the figure was 289 young people at risk, including 15 at ‘serious risk’.

* West Midlands Police can use Sexual Risk Orders (SRO) to ban individuals suspected of CSE from contacting specific children.

* The force applied for, and, won nine such SRO orders in 2015, three in 2016 and a further ten in 2017.

* Two sexual harm prevention orders were also obtained last year, one in 2016 and two in 2015.

Council chiefs say that the way they collate and present CSE data is currently under review, with decisions due in the next few months.

Earlier this month, official statistics revealed nearly 500 youngsters in Birmingham were identified as being at risk of CSE in the last year, with the NSPCC warning grooming is “rampant across the country”.

There were 9,717 assessments of children referred to social services in the city in the financial year 2017/18, according to data from the Department for Education.

Of those, child sexual exploitation was identified as a risk factor in 493 cases.

Nationally, the number of cases where children were identified as being at risk of CSE after being referred to social services increased from 18,800 in 2016/17 to 20,000 in 2017/18.

The figure stood at just 12,200 in 2014/15.

What Crime Commissioner David Jamieson and West Midlands Police said

“I am disappointed at the delay in providing this information as I want this important data published.

“It was a key joint promise that this would be published regularly, and the delay in recent publications is concerning.

“The data showed the willingness of the public sector to confront these issues head-on and shine a light on hidden crimes.

“Child sexual exploitation is an issue for the police, but also for local authorities’ children’s services teams. I sincerely hope that the delay in publication does not relate to cutbacks in those departments.

“The police take the issue of child exploitation very seriously, as shown by the recent conviction of Zakaria Mohammed and action taken to close down premises linked to the grooming of vulnerable girls.

“However there clearly must be more done to tackle the issue of exploitation in all its forms.

“I expect the data to be published as soon as possible as it is clearly in the public interest.

“We should not be afraid to talk about difficult issues like this, however uncomfortable they may be. I expect a timetable to be set out as to when this data will be published on an ongoing basis."

Superintendent Paul Drover from West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit said: “Any suggestion that West Midlands Police is withholding information relating to child sexual exploitation is, frankly, wrong and unfair.

“The force has agreed with all local authorities that it will publish statistics and information relating to CSE on their behalf. However, we are reliant on that information being passed over from councils – and it has been more than a year since that last happened.”

He confirmed that the force had secured nine Sexual Risk Orders in 2017 plus two further Sexual Harm Prevention Orders.

Such orders are secured against people suspected of posing a potential risk to children but where there is not enough evidence to charge them with a criminal offence, and come with conditions to restrict their contact with, and to safeguard, vulnerable children or young adults.

“West Midlands Police also successfully secured many Gang Injunctions against men suspected of involvement in organised crime and, in some cases, child exploitation,” said Supt Drover.

“Child sexual exploitation is a force priority and cases are investigated by specially trained officers from our Public Protection Units.

"We work closely with partner agencies, such as children’s services, education, health and charities, to share information and highlight safeguarding concerns. Reports are promptly allocated for investigation by detectives and there are many live CSE investigations currently being progressed.

“There isn’t a backlog of unallocated CSE investigations in Birmingham. Whenever a report comes in an investigator is allocated with accompanying safeguarding and investigation strategy. And we have procedures in place to monitor the timeliness of all investigations.

“These are reviewed on a regular basis and action taken should there be concerns over the progress of any investigation.”

What the seven West Midlands councils said

* Birmingham City Council rejected an FOI seeking the latest information on CSE, but stated that between 2016 and 2018 there were ‘in excess of 1,200 referrals where both or either trafficking and CSE were initially recorded for the financial years 2016 to 2018”.

* Wolverhampton Council provided latest data for Quarter 2, which showed 140 children were potentially at risk of CSE in the city. These included four girls aged eight, nine, 10 and 11 and a 10-year-old boy who were all in the ‘at risk’ category.

* Solihull Council said: “In Solihull we are actively working with 212 children of which a very small number (4-5) are at significant risk. We are working with their families and with a number of other partners to ensure their safety.”

* Sandwell Council said in quarter one for 2018/19 there were 167 children at risk of CSE, 11 at serious risk, 30 at significant risk and 126 at risk. That compared to 136 at risk from the same period last year.

* Dudley Council said in the first quarter of 2018/19 there were 93 children ‘at risk’ of CSE, including nine at ‘significant risk’ and five at ‘serious risk.

* Walsall Council refused to provide CSE details and insisted the Birmingham Mail submit a Freedom of Information request.

* Coventry City Council did not reply to an email request for its CSE data.

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