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Rochdale report: BASW supports call for better training on sexual exploitation issues

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) strongly welcomes today’s report into why professionals in the Rochdale area failed to stop the sexual abuse of young girls, between 2007 and 2011.

BASW believes the report, commissioned by Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB), offers a rare opportunity to learn vital lessons about how social workers, the police, healthcare professionals and others can work far more effectively to minimise the chances of such appalling outcomes for such vulnerable young people.

BASW strongly supports the report’s call for significant improvements in multi-agency working to prevent such cases being allowed to happen again, as well as a clear message from the RBSCB that better training in the complex area of sexual exploitation is of paramount importance.

Commenting on the initial report from the RBSCB, BASW’s Acting Chief Executive Bridget Robb said: “This is a terrible case in which mistakes were clearly made over a prolonged period of time, and lessons must be learnt if we are to reduce the chances of other vulnerable young girls suffering similar experiences in future.

“The report’s emphasis on closer multi-agency working and better training for all professionals whose work requires an understanding of issues around sexual exploitation is very welcome. We know from the work of BASW’s expert group on child exploitation issues that not all social workers are receiving the specialist training needed to recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation, nor are they given the time needed to undertake it.

“In terms of what this means for social workers, I would urge all local authorities throughout England, as well as in the rest of the UK, to consider what they can take from the report’s recommendations around training and joint working.

“It really is important that this report isn’t simply used as another stick with which to beat hard-pressed professionals, including social workers, but is instead seen as a chance to improve all aspects of the way we work.

“An extremely positive aspect of the response to the Rochdale scandal has been how the RBSCB pulled together professionals from all areas of the child protection arena, including social work managers, to contribute towards the findings of this report. Social workers were heavily involved in an important one-day learning event leading up to its production, indicating a real determination to learn from the mistakes made.

“In the current climate of public spending cuts, with rising caseloads for social workers and cuts to back office support staff, BASW’s concern is that the many important recommendations from this study aren’t left on the shelf. They need to be implemented, not just in Rochdale but elsewhere too, for the good of all child protection professionals and in the interests of some of our most vulnerable young people.”

BASW’s expert group on child exploitation aims to share best practice in protecting young people from sexual exploitation and contributed to a two-year study, What's Goig on to Safeguard Children?, by the University of Bedfordshire, based on responses from 100 Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).

The study found that only just over a third of respondents had a sub-group in place to examine the issue of child exploitation, and a specialist project providing services for young people.