Charity works with Essex County Council to improve response to child sexual exploitation

Essex County Council's base at County Hall in Chelmsford. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Essex County Council's base at County Hall in Chelmsford. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

A national charity working to drive good practice by professionals dealing with child sexual exploitation (CSE) has commended Essex County Council for making positive changes to its approach.

NWG Network has helped numerous local authorities become better at working together to tackle and prevent this harrowing crime since the high-profile scandals in Rochdale and Rotherham.

Social workers nationally were among those who took some of the criticism over the failings in these cases.

Essex County Council has been working closely with NWG on raising its game in dealing with CSE and has “gold” membership for its work in reaching out to more than 1,000 organisations across Essex.

Social worker Kay Harrop, who is the CSE lead for children and families at Essex County Council, said: “We have monthly multi-agency meetings and robust frameworks in our CSE processes, and procedures, and a new CSE toolbox and risk assessment that is taking us forward.

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“We also offer regular CSE in-house training to the Essex workforce, which has been a real success and helped to spread good levels of CSE practice standards across the service.”

Ms Harrop said since Rochdale the council had moved away from a “tick box” approach to dealing with CSE and was putting the child at the centre of its response.

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Clare Livens, child exploitation project manager for Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB), said lessons had been learned.

She said: “One of the big changes in dealing with CSE in the last five years has been getting better at listening to young people, parents and communities, and that has been embedded in all the work we do in Essex by creating a culture of listening to others.”

NWG’s focus is on those on the frontline working with children, providing the resources, infrastructure and support to help them get it right. It is also encouraging child-centred practices that recognise and respect diversity.

Sheila Taylor, chief executive of NWG, said: “I think before NWG came into being everyone felt isolated and distant with a lot of people operating on their own and not widely engaged with others like the police and social services. We have since then been on a huge journey.”

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