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Real Voices: Are they being heard?

Child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester A follow-up report by Ann Coffey MP. March 2017

The high profile Rochdale sexual exploitation case in 2012 - along with Rotherham, Oldham, Oxford, Telford, Stockport and Peterborough – revealed the shocking extent of child sexual exploitation.

In December 2013, Tony Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, asked me to conduct an independent inquiry into what progress had been made since 2012 and what more needed to be done to tackle child sexual exploitation in the region.

My report, Real Voices – Child Sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester, published in 2014, explored the underlying attitudes in the police and other agencies, which meant that perpetrators could exploit children, knowing that if they were reported, it would be the victim on trial, not them.

It caused shockwaves by identifying that child sexual exploitation had become a ‘social norm’ in some communities in Greater Manchester.

The report called for a sea change in attitudes away from a culture of blaming children and young people for bringing about their own sexual exploitation. In collecting my evidence I spoke to everyone who worked in this difficult area but I prioritised listening to children and young people and put their voices about their experiences at the very front of my report. Real Voices recommended that the fight against CSE had to be led by young people and their voices had to be heard.

Two years on, Tony Lloyd, GM Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, asked me to review some aspects of the report.

In this new review I have looked at how far attitudes have changed in the police, agencies and the wider community. I have looked at whether children and young people in Greater Manchester have a stronger voice now and if this has led to cultural changes in organisations and innovative ways of working with young people to shape and deliver services.

There is an impressive amount of local leadership, energy and initiative across Greater Manchester and I have referenced some specific projects to illustrate innovative new approaches involving children and young people. There are many more examples that could have been used.

The challenge now is how to use the knowledge gained from these projects to drive forward the cultural change in all organisations across Greater Manchester that is needed to safeguard children better.

This report is clear that it is not the sole responsibility of the police and statutory agencies but that the wider community, together with parents and carers, have a responsibility to keep our children safe.