The number of children at risk of sexual exploitation in South Tyneside has more than trebled in the last year, a report has revealed.
The rise in the number of ‘at-risk’ youngsters is said to be due to better training and a ‘comprehensive’ approach to raising awareness of the issue, leading to more potential victims being identified, a wide-ranging probe found.
There is a lack of effective management oversight within health services.Area inspection report
A targeted inspection of the South Tyneside area – conducted by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Probation and HMI Constabulary in February – revealed that 38 children were at risk of abuse in 2015/16.
The figure is a sharp rise from the 12 children potentially at risk in the previous year.
The investigation, which looked into actions being taken by South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Foundation Trust, Northumbria Police and other agencies, praised the ‘clear commitment’ by the organisations to offer vital support to vulnerable children.
But the report into the investigation’s findings criticised a ‘lack of effective management’ within health services to assess and identify at-risk youngsters.
The report praised the efforts of the council to combat the concerning issue, stating: “The Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council has a good understanding of the needs of children and young people in South Tyneside.
“Together with the lead member for children, young people and families he has been instrumental in ensuring that members understand their responsibilities in terms of safeguarding, including their responses to child sexual exploitation.”
It said that police bosses are dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation.
The Youth Justice Service was also acknowledged for its ‘good understanding’ of the specific need to identify those at risk at an early age, while the probation service was commended for its ‘strong focus’ and understanding of child protection issues.
But the report went onto say that health bosses have work to do to improve their understanding of the subject
It states: “Health Local Authority and CCG commissioners and senior managers in South Tyneside Foundation Trust do not have a sufficiently robust understanding of what is happening to assess and manage risk in those frontline services inspected.
Sir Paul Ennals CBE, Independent chairman of the South Tyneside Safeguarding Children’s Board said: “The results of the inspection were broadly positive. They also identified areas for improvement – many of which we had already identified and begun to address.”
No one was available for comment at South Tyneside Foundation Trust.