Welfare

26.02.18

Newcastle praised for ‘swift’ reaction to sexual exploitation of vulnerable residents

A joint review into Newcastle City Council has found that the authority’s reaction to reports of sexual exploitation of both children and adults was deserving of its “independent national recognition.”

The report, completed between the Newcastle Safeguarding Adults and Safeguarding Children boards, referred to events from 2014, when it was revealed that a number of individuals had been suffering from sexual abuse and exploitation in the region.

The review found that overall interagency reaction of the council and police was “committed and persistent” to both deal with the safety and welfare of victims and quickly convict perpetrators for lengthy sentences.

Investigators said there were national lessons to be learned, with offenders found to have shown “remarkable persistence” despite comprehensive action from services.

They praised the formation of the Multiagency Sexual Exploitation Hub developed in Newcastle to deal with these issues, and said that an increase in awareness has helped improve the reaction to victims who come forward.

In a statement, the two boards commented: “Actions taken have made a positive difference to the way agencies identify, respond and prevent sexual exploitation and to how best to support victims, which has led to exceptional victim focused practice. This practice is being acknowledged independently and nationally.”

While other reviews of this kind have focused on the problems of child exploitation, Newcastle is one of the first places to see a general investigation into both children and vulnerable adults, with the review saying not enough is done nationally to help adult victims.

David Spicer, who authored the report, said: “Unlike some other areas, Newcastle agencies did not try and sweep this under the carpet but actively went looking for it and as a result a large number of perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted, and victims saved from further trauma. That is not say that lessons have not been learned.”

Spicer explained that one of the main issues for authorities was the prosecution of individuals, which had previously been difficult because of a lack of evidence but has become more achievable as officials have begun to work more closely with victims.

“I would like to reassure everyone that the council is working very closely with both the adult and children’s safeguarding boards to ensure all of the recommendations are progressed and implemented in a timely manner,” commented Pat Ritchie, chief executive of Newcastle City Council.

“Sexual exploitation is happening in towns and cities across the country but what we have learned can be used to help others.

“We know it is still going on in our city, but we are doing everything in our power to prevent it, disrupt it and deal with it, and support the victims for years to come.”

Top image: Andrew Whitaker

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