The Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB) has today published its serious case review (SCR) into the services provided to the victims of seven men convicted in 2013 of 59 offences of child sexual exploitation.
The SCR details that CSE and street grooming was not understood and national guidance was not followed and girls’ behaviour was interpreted in a way which viewed them as young adults rather than children and assumed they had control of their actions. The report also found it was the efforts of junior staff efforts which led to the eventual identification of the pattern of group child sexual exploitation.
Maris Stratulis, England Manager at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said:
“BASW commends the bravery and courage of the child victims and their families for participating in the Oxfordshire Serious Case Review (SCR) and we sincerely hope that ongoing therapeutic support is available to all affected. The horrors and extent of the abuse, child sexual exploitation and street grooming evidenced in the report between 2005-2010 makes for stark and shocking reading.
“This is another sad day for the social work profession. We share the public’s frustration as more failings are revealed and another pledge for lessons to be learned is made. Social workers on the ground are faced with an extremely tough job and it’s fair to say that we are only beginning to understand the true nature of child sexual exploitation.
“These are not boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and children are not making choices about their lives. These children are innocent victims of targeted and cynical grooming by criminals and agencies are now beginning to see it as such.
“What we need to do now is focus on investigating and disrupting the activities of perpetrators. We need a clear message to go out that this is a crime and if you seek to sexually exploit children, you will be pursued, you will be caught and you will be punished.
“While race has been a factor in a number of high profile cases such as this, those that sexually exploit and abuse children do come from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds; we must not get stuck with a fixed idea of what abusers look like as that just creates more risk to children. The profile of all offenders of CSE needs to be considered including the race and heritage of those convicted.
“Above all, as a society we need to start believing children when they say they have been abused. What exactly does it take for a child to become visible and be listened to?
“Certainly, there was a lack of curiosity across many organisations when allegations were made but we do have to highlight the effort made by some frontline staff, often junior staff, to raise the issue.
“There is no doubt that there has been significant investment in services to support children at risk of sexual exploitation in recent years, including an increase of frontline staff across the partnership, the establishment of specialist services including the Kingfisher team and multi-agency front line services and training of front line staff in raising awareness of CSE, this investment needs to continue and professional curiosity and crucial questioning needs to be embraced.
“The report highlights that significant concerns about children were not escalated, processes and whistleblowing was not evidenced within and across partnership organisations including health, children’s services and the police and we need to ask why.
“Is it about the child not being visible, heard or valued? Or is it a lack of awareness, insight, fear, ineffective supervision, or not seeing the bigger picture?”
BASW’s Maris Stratulis speaks to the BBC