Skip to main content

NIASW Statement: Thematic Review of alleged Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland

NIASW welcomes the publication of the Thematic Review in relation to a number of cases of alleged child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Northern Ireland.

The report, compiled by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) identifies the learning and opportunities for improvement in relation to a number of the young people whose cases were subject to a police investigation into suspected child sexual exploitation.

This police operation, known as operation owl, involved children and young people – many of whom were Looked After; they were reported to police by social services on the basis that they had repeatedly gone missing.

The Review whilst relating to small number of children has suggested a number themes for wider learning and system improvement.

NIASW supports these findings and calls for:

  • The continued support of and investment into residential social work as the report evidences the excellent work that they do; on some occasions the report acknowledges that staff likely saved children’s lives
  • More resources to effectively support children and young people, who are the victims of CSE, as part of a planned approach to tackling this abuse,
  • Prevention and early intervention being key to working with these young people and their families, and
  • Continued investment in the infrastructure to support the positive working relationships across the health and social care field, the voluntary sector and with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

NIASW Chair Marcella Leonard stated:

“As Chair of NIASW I welcome this report as it provides the profession with an overview of this one specific area of child abuse. The report rightly acknowledges the complexity of this form of sexual abuse and the challenges for practitioners in protecting and intervening with the young people who are being exploited.

“The proposed audit in twelve months time to review what progress has been made is also welcomed, but this also needs to review what facilities/resources and policies have been developed to greater assist practitioners to feel more competent, confident and supported in this work.”