Child sex exploitation cases on increase

Crime story
Crime story

AN ACTION plan has been launched to tackle Wigan’s growing problem of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Latest figures show that 21 children and young people in the borough were identified as at risk of CSE as of September 2014, compared with 36 in Manchester and 14 in Trafford.

Of the 21, seven were placed in the “high risk” category and 14 in the medium.

During a high profile campaign in September, work with partner agencies in the borough led to detectives identifying 13 potential hotspots in Wigan and the arrest of a 22-year-old man over a claim he groomed a teenage girl for sex.

In 2012/13, 208 Sexual Exploitation and Missing (SEAM) meetings took place – an increase of 19 per cent compared with the previous year.

The 19-point action plan, which will be discussed at next Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, aims to prevent high profile cases like Rotherham occurring here in Wigan by drawing on a number of recommendations made by Alexis Jay’s inquiry and Anne Coffey’s review.

The key recommendations include identifying and disrupting areas where CSE activity is most likely to occur by mapping hotspots; ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice and improving public awareness and education around CSE by working closely with schools and communities.

In August a national report – Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham– highlighted that in just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect.

To prevent this oversight, one of the recommendations included in the local action plan is to ensure risk assessments are kept up to date and recorded on the child’s file.

The recommendations also reflect the findings of the Coffey Inquiry, with a commitment to invite representatives of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to Wigan Safeguarding Children Board meetings, in line with Coffey’s recommendation that the CPS service should be a part of CSE multiagency teams. Coun Joanne Platt, cabinet member for children and young people at Wigan Council, said: “We’ve been working really hard to raise awareness of CSE this year, with campaigns like ‘the more you know the more you see’ raising the profile of the issue locally.

“Despite that, we know we have to do more to ensure we’re protecting our children and young people from exploitation and keeping them safe.

“I’m confident that this action plan will contribute towards achieving that ambition.”