To consider a report from the Assistant Director Children & Young People (Deputy DCS).
Members considered a report from the Assistant Director – Children & Young People (Deputy DCS). The Senior Manager - Children & Families introduced the report by clarifying the term ‘Child Exploitation’ and explaining that exploitation could take a variety of different forms including: exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups such as county lines; trafficking; online abuse; teenage relationship abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.
The Senior Manager - Children & Families explained the governance of the issue lay with the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership’s (CSCP), ‘Missing, Exploited and Trafficked Children Group’ (MET) had multi-agency strategic oversight of child exploitation in Cumbria. Members heard that the group was jointly chaired by the Police and the Council’s Children & Families lead for exploitation, it met on a bi-monthly basis and had representation from across a range of agencies.
Members heard that in Cumbria there were currently 63 children identified at risk of or being exploited. Members asked for clarification on the level of risk and it was explained that the risk levels used were: Category 1, 2 or 3 Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), with level 1 being the lowest risk and 3 the highest. The Senior Manager - Children & Families then broke down the numbers of identified at risk or exploited children by district area.
Oversight of all children with a child exploitation category of risk lies with the Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) group. MACE meets on a 6 weekly basis and provides the framework to allow regular information sharing and action planning to tackle child exploitation in Cumbria. This included information relating to the links between children at risk or subject to exploitation, perpetrators or individuals who may pose a risk and/or locations and community intelligence. This meeting continued to run throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure oversight of some of the county’s most vulnerable children.
A discussion took place regarding whether an increase of children put at risk could be seen in the data over the course of the pandemic. The Senior Manager – Children and Families explained that the data does not yet show an increase in number of children identified as at risk of exploitation following Covid. However, the service was undertaking a county wide piece of work via the CSCP, to raise awareness of child exploitation and help improve identification, which could result in an increase in referrals.
The Senior Manager – Children and Families detailed the campaign stating that it was a county-wide child exploitation awareness raising campaign launched by the CSCP in partnership with the NSPCC. It was explained that the ‘IT’S NOT OK’ campaign would help raise awareness of child exploitation among children and young people, parents, practitioners and the wider community. It would highlight how to spot the signs of exploitation and where to report concerns. The campaign would also use a preventative approach, encouraging children and young people to think about what a healthy relationship looks like and to encourage them to speak out if they ever had concerns. In the first three months of the campaign, 1000 professionals attended learning and development events, the campaign had also carried out engagement work with parents and carers as well as with children and young people.
Members were asked whether they wished to receive regular updates on child exploitation and the awareness campaign so as to support campaign engagement and it was AGREED that updates be brought regularly to the Scrutiny Advisory Board – Children and Young People.