8th Dec, 2016

Child sex abuse report finds failings by Coventry authorities

Les Reid 11th Jul, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A SERIOUS case review published today into the ‘appalling’ sexual exploitation of five vulnerable teenage girls in care by a group of men in Coventry has found services had missed opportunities to protect them, with major failings.

The 13 to 15-year-olds ‘experienced appalling violence, intimidation and sexual exploitation over a considerable period of time’, states the review by Coventry’s Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).

One of the five was in a council residential home, and the others were in accommodation run by the YMCA.

All had been in contact with Coventry City Council’s children’s services and were known to a range of child protection agencies.

Incidents from as early as January 2010 raised concerns, yet the authorities had failed to intervene to prevent child abuse and exploitation.

The report states: “Referrals had been made to Children’s Services about each of them identifying a range of concerns including possible sexual abuse within the family, neglect, placement breakdowns, drug use, mental health problems and self-harm.

… Setting aside whether or not these concerns might have indicated there were vulnerabilities for Child Sexual Exploitation, what could reasonably have been expected was that they would result in wider concerns about the children’s welfare including the need for a safeguarding response.”

It describes a lack of a joined-up approach to assessing risk between the agencies to the children ‘both at home and in the outside world’.

It concludes: “It is apparent that the services provided to these five children and their families fell short of what is understood to be good practice both now and also at the time.

“The children’s vulnerability was not recognised and adequately acted on at an early enough stage making effective intervention increasingly difficult to achieve as they became more vulnerable to exploitation.”

With regard to four of the children, social workers had failed to grasp the seriousness of the risks despite being party to ‘very worrying information’, the report concludes.

It adds the hospital only notified social workers and the police of injuries to one girl on a third visit with a third injury during 2011.

School absence was also not notified adequately.

Coventry City Council’s children’s services was given an ‘Inadequate’ rating by watchdog Ofsted two years ago following the tragedy of four-year-old Daniel Pelka, murdered by his parents when serious failings were also found.

Police eventually launched a major investigation into the case of the five girls in September 2012. Five men were later convicted of criminal offences including physical assault, witness intimidation and the supply of drugs and were given custodial sentences.

The men had also been charged with sexual offences which did not result in convictions.

The review held meetings with 17 practitioners who had been involved with the children at the time.

Janet Mokades, chair of the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board, said: “The board now needs to focus on better ways of working to support vulnerable young people so that they do not become involved in CSE as well as longer term support for those who have suffered from CSE.”

The board added CSE is now one of the safeguarding board’s priorities and there is an agreed plan for tackling it. This review details the ‘progress’ made, including an increase in police investigations.

The review team was made up of officials from the council, police, education, health and other agencies.

The report’s recommendations include developing multi-agency responses to children who present as vulnerable or at risk; setting up a task group to identify the long term needs of CSE victims; and improving post-adoption support when adoption relations break down.

The full report can be found at

http://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/206/coventry_local_safeguarding_children_board/2524/serious_c

ase_reviews_children