Report praises Peterborough’s action on child sexual exploitation - but more work is needed

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn

Agencies dealing with child sexual exploitation in Peterborough have been praised in a report - but more needs to be done to help children who have gone missing from home.

An overview of the way agencies in Peterborough worked together to identify and tackle child sexual exploitation has been published today (Friday 3 June) by the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board.

The report looks at the lessons learnt from Operation Erle, which saw 10 men and boys receiving sentences totalling 114 years and nine months.

The work carried out by Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire police and a number of other organisations and agencies.

The report also evaluates the overall learning as a result of the work of the agencies to identify and address child sexual exploitation and recommends potential future learning opportunities.

In conclusion, the report finds that when concerns of child sexual exploitation have been identified, the multi-agency response has been proactive, comprehensive and reflective.

However, the reports independent author, Ceryl Teleri Davies, a qualified solicitor and social worker, recommended ‘agencies provide assurance to the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board that they review their missing from home procedures to ensure, for example, that there is information sharing and appropriate recording.’

Russell Wate, independent chair of the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board, said: “The joint investigation, Operation Erle, has received national praise for the police, council and the safeguarding children board for how they tackled child exploitation and continue to

tackle the issue within the city.

“However, this must not for one moment diminish the suffering of all of the victims involved and they must be at the centre of any learning so that we can try to prevent similar situations arising in the future.

“This must be the overarching aim of the publication of this document, to promote the safeguarding of children and young people from child sexual exploitation, locally and nationally.”

Wendi Ogle Welbourn, corporate director: people and communities for Peterborough City Council, said: “We welcome the publication of this report which is an honest appraisal of how agencies in Peterborough have worked, and continue to work, in partnership to identify young people who are being sexually exploited, protect them and bring offenders to justice.

“In particular I am pleased that the report recognises our proactivity in addressing the problem. The big difference in Peterborough is that having followed other places like Rotherham and Oxford we knew we must have child sexual exploitation in our city. So along with the police we went out looking for it, and when we found it we took decisive action. Our social workers and the police spent considerable time gaining the trust of the young people so that they felt able tell us the awful details of what was happening to them so that the police could make arrests and we were able to begin supporting them properly.

“I am also pleased that the report recognises the considerable amount of work that is ongoing in the city to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation so that we can protect children and young people from this awful crime. This includes targeted education in secondary schools, including the theatre production Chelsea’s Choice, and awareness raising with the community including fast food outlets, nightclub bouncers, hotel receptionists and taxi drivers.

“We will be reviewing the recommendations made in the report to see how we can strengthen our work with partner agencies to ensure that children and young people are protected from harm and that raising awareness of child sexual exploitation remains top of all our agenda.”

The full report is available to view at www.safeguardingpeterborough.org.uk

More: Operation Erle brings offenders to justice