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New ‘deep dive’ inspection raises concerns about child exploitation in South Tyneside

The first ‘deep dive’ inspection of children’s services has led to South Tyneside authorities being urged to improve their response to child sexual exploitation and missing children.

‘Deep dive’ inspections were introduced by Ofsted in January of this year following child sexual exploitations such as in Rotherham, where the local authority failings were so severe that it was judged to be ‘not fit for purpose’ and temporarily came under central government control, and Oxfordshire. Inspectors evaluate the experiences of children at risk of a particular type or types of harm after concerns are raised about a local authority or to highlight good practice.

The inspection, conducted by Ofsted, the CQC, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation, found that although there was a commitment in South Tyneside Council, the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and partner organisations to improve child exploitation, there were a number of areas that needed improvement, especially identifying the risks to children when they first make contact with services.

It recommended more oversight to ensure that health services regularly assess risks to children and better identification of risk and joint decision-making between police, health and children’s social care when children are first referred to social services.

It also said that police and the LSCB need better data on exploitation and until January 2016 lacked a coherent list of children most at risk.

Sir Paul Innals, independent chair of the South Tyneside Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: “It is important for ourselves and for the children we serve that we rapidly address the areas of improvement that they have identified.”

However, the report commended South Tyneside for its emphasis on preventing child exploitation by raising awareness, including lessons and awareness-raising plays in schools, making child sexual exploitation training mandatory for taxi drivers to get licensed and training social landlords and hotel, pub and fast food restaurant staff.

As a consequence, the number of children identified as being at risk of exploitation increased from 12 in 2014-15 to 38 in 2015-16.

Figures last year found that as few as one in eight children who are sexually abused could be known to authorities.

Last year the government proposed prison sentences of up to six years for councillors, teachers and social workers who fail to protect children.


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