Stopping abuse of children ‘a priority’

MORE than 130 children and young people in Calderdale have been sexually exploited in the past five years.

Most of the victims were girls and it was men aged 20 to 30 who were the main perpetrators, according to the latest figures given to councillors.

Currently, 15 young people are known by the authorities to be at risk of exploitation and strategies are in place to protect them.

Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board has made tackling the problem a priority and it is overseeing a multi-agency team of experts from the police, health and social services.

It is also commissioning a specialist support service to ensure that children can access appropriate help, according to Calderdale Council’s director of children and young peoples services, Janet Donaldson.

“Victims come from a range of backgrounds, age and gender - often they are groomed over a long period and once enticed into sexual exploitation find it difficult to escape,” said Ms Donaldson.

Analysis of victims in Calderdale shows that substance misuse is a regular feature in child exploitation, some victims go missing from home or have unauthorised absence from school and they often come to the notice of social workers, health workers, youth workers, youth offending teams and the police.

“Although most perpetrators are male, three females have been identified as having an involvement in Calderdale cases from 2006-2010,” said Ms Donaldson in a report to children and young people’s panel, which will discuss the situation at its meeting on Tuesday.

Here is one particular case history:

When a 14-year-old Calderdale girl with challenging behaviour told teachers her father had hit her, a child protection inquiry and an assessment was carried out.

The school reported that following the death of her mother, she had been going to pubs during the day, being collected by males in cars and not going home at night.

Children’s Services provided intensive support and she disclosed how a number of young people got into cars with males in exchange for sexual favours.

One day she was arrested in a hotel room with several males and was found to be carrying drugs.

With her father’s consent, she was placed in foster care and moved out of the immediate area where she settled into family life and enrolled at college.

She has started to speak about not having a childhood and realises there were issues leading to her being exploited and that she is not to blame.