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Local child exploitation will not be ignored

Created on 06/11/2020 @ 09:32
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Local social workers will not shy away from dealing with the most difficult cases of child exploitation, Powys county councillors have been told.

The Child Exploitation Strategy and Action Plan was discussed at a meeting of the council's Health and Care Scrutiny Committee.

Head of Children’s Social Services, Jan Coles, explained that the authority was already working in the area and needed the strategy to provide a solid framework for the future.

The council is working alongside Dyfed-Powys Police in this area.

Former Adult Social Services portfolio holder and Montgomery councillor, Stephen Hayes, believed there were parts of the document that needed to be clarified.

He said: “This is such a complex area, I applaud you for tackling it.

“The child’s voice is paramount, but that is quite a difficult line to take when a child may consider, they are giving informed consent to activity in this area.

“You may need to revisit how you articulate that.

“The child’s involvement in the conversation is very important but theirs may not be the deciding voice whether exploitation criminally or sexually is taking place.”

He added that some perpetrators might also be victims or children themselves having suffered abuse in the past, Cllr Hayes wanted to see this acknowledged in the strategy.

Ms Coles replied: “It is possible to both prioritise the voice of children in the way we work and work with them.

“While recognising, they have been groomed and have really difficult experiences.

“They absolutely will not have the final say over deciding if someone is exploiting them or not.”

Ms Coles recalled a harrowing case she worked on at a previous job, where a teenager was raped by a man who also arranged for her to be routinely gang raped.

Ms Coles said: “She looked me in the eye and said, ‘you’ve taken away the only good thing in my life.’

“The fact she had that view was not a reason for us not to make sure that man was arrested.

“What we need to do is stick with that young person and continue to support them through the experience.

“None of this is easy, we won’t shy away from it because it’s complex, we’ll put in the resources that are needed, and tackle it.”

“We are determined to make Powys an inhospitable place for those who want  to exploit our children and young people.”

This is also an area which was seen to have weaknesses in the critical Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) report into Children’s Services from 2017.

Three years ago the CIW highlighted the previous failures in safeguarding children at heightened risk of sexual exploitation, and who had been sexually exploited.

Ms Coles explained that restructuring the service to address this area, had been a key priority.

Ms Coles added: “We have a manager who oversees all the child protection meetings and also four support workers who are developing their skills to work directly with children and young people.

“We have been doing this in practice but we want to have make sure we have the proper foundations there.”

“We hope that the next step in a couple of years time will be to have a multi-agency strategy.”

At next week’s Cabinet meeting councillors are expected to endorse the strategy.



By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service




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