The Hyndburn and Ribble Valley 'Engage' team is a multi-agency virtual partnership, which was set up to help win the fight against sexual exploitation of young people. The main purpose of the team is to protect children from child sexual exploitation and prosecute those who target children.
Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves 'grooming' - exploitative situations and relationships where young people receive 'something' (for example food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing sexual activities.
The Hyndburn Children and Young People's Trust made tackling child sexual exploitation one of its top priorities. Initial research suggested that many cases went undetected, that there was significant scope for agencies to work better together and that additional capacity was needed to effectively help victims and those at risk.
As a result, the Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Engage team was set up under the lead of Detective Sergeant Mark Whelan, mirroring a model that had been hugely successful in Blackburn with Darwen over a number of years.
Since then, the team has worked proactively to co-ordinate the activity of a number of agencies to address this issue more effectively. The Police, Children's Social Care, Coalition for the removal of Pimps, Brook, Young People's Service, Family Intervention Project and the Primary Care Trust work together to identify those at risk of being sexually exploited. They apply proactive problem solving to address the risks associated with victims, perpetrators and locations. They work to ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children and young people, who are or may be at risk from exploitation. Robust action is taken against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people in this way. The team also provides awareness raising and preventative education.
What worked well...
Since the team was formed earlier this year, fortnighly meetings have been held. This has allowed much better information sharing and led to more effective action in a greater number of cases. Working in a more joined up way has allowed specialist multi-agency partners to share relevant intelligence and co-ordinate responses. This has resulted in greater ability to disrupt and prosecute perpetrators and provide early intervention to reduce harm and promote wellbeing. A single referral process has been agreed by all agencies. Additional workers have been secured through Lottery and Targeted Youth Support funding to help victims and those at risk.
Between July and September 2011, referrals to the team have increased to 32 children, compared to 11 in the same period of 2010. Ten suspects were also identified during this time. The Trust is nnow working to develop additional success measures, looking at qualitative and quantitative positive outcomes for the children and young people affected.
As of October 2011, the decision has been taken by Lancashire County Council to merge the Hyndburn and Ribble Valley and Blackburn with Darwen Engage teams. This decision has been welcomed by all partners who believe that joining an already well established team will be hugely beneficial to the work in the area, help assist in the detection of cross border grooming and help to close gaps in service provision.
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