Project for at-risk children praised

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Library image

Children in Wigan at more at risk of being sexually exploited online, a report has suggested.

The report for Wigan Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board has praised Project Phoenix for making “significant progress” in tackling child sexual exploitation in the borough since the beginning of 2015.

The council is working in partnership with Rochdale Council after they were jointly awarded £1m to deliver the project which hoped to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) by creating a multi-agency approach working with children and families at risk of exploitation.

Despite the project being praised, at the end of March 2016, there were 117 cases open to the CSE team, the majority of which were aged between 10 and 15.

The figures show that girls were more at risk, with 56 open cases for girls aged 10 to 15 and 21 for boys compared to 36 open cases for girls aged 16 or over and eight for boys of the same age.

The report reads: “The profile of CSE in Wigan is quite different to areas such as Rochdale and Manchester. In the Wigan borough, much of the activity is around online activity.”

Figures show that in the majority of open cases in March, 35 per cent of children were at risk from grooming and 16 per cent from the internet. Nine per cent were at risk from a boyfriend or girlfriend and seven per cent from a lone offender.

The report goes on to say that a peer review was held about the project in April. It reads: “It was very apparent to the review panel that the approach taken by partners in Wigan to address CSE has improved beyond all recognition in the last year.

“A co-located, multi-agency CSE team is now fully operational having launched in May 2015 and is very well resourced by managers and staff who demonstrated a thorough understanding of CSE and were able to talk in detail about effective methods of keeping children safe, supporting families and targeting perpetrators.

“The involvement of the Gateway team working along with dedicated CSE social workers appears to be delivering excellent outcomes for families and the addition of a health worker to the team is a positive sign of the progress being made.”

Funding for the project will run out at some point in 2016 but the CSE Innovation Programme Board is looking to apply for further funding under phase two of the DfE’s programme.