COMMUNITY leaders will sit down later today to discuss the findings of a review into child sexual exploitation in the city.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned the report in May after it was revealed that 27 children were sexually exploited in the city last year.
The review – part of the Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board’s overall strategy – examined the work being done to protect and support vulnerable children and young people.
It highlighted significant good work and practice and made some recommendations for further work, which centre around continued best practice and advice.
And members of the authority’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee are due to discuss the findings this morning.
Councillor Gwen Hassall, the city council’s cabinet member for social care, said: “We take the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) extremely seriously. That is why as part of our overall strategy to prevent CSE in the city and to protect our vulnerable young people, we commissioned an independent review by a leading national authority.
“We want to further improve our services, and the review is helping us to do that by highlighting our good practice and making recommendations for changes.
“It is a very sad fact that CSE is a national problem and takes place in every city – Stoke-on-Trent is no exception. But we are committed to addressing the issue head on, and will continue to do so along with our safeguarding partners.
“We want to reassure parents that CSE is something that will not be tolerated, and we are doing all we can to safeguard children against it.”
Chanon Consulting and the University of Bedfordshire were commissioned to carry out the review on behalf of the authority and the safeguarding board.
Christine Christie, director at Chanon Consulting, said: “It is a testament to the commitment of the Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board and partners that they went ahead and commissioned an independent and therefore public review.
“As part of this, they will have known that a review of services would identify areas for further development.
“We are confident that they will honour the review recommendations.”
Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse said: “It has become abundantly clear in recent times that child sexual exploitation is a widespread and growing problem which threatens communities across the UK. It is not an isolated phenomenon that affects just a few areas.
“We welcome the approach taken by the authorities in Stoke-on-Trent in both recognising the problem in the city and taking action to address it.”
Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said: “Staffordshire Police will continue to work with our partners to educate and prevent this sort of crime.
“We also have a dedicated team of highly skilled detectives working to support the victims and bring those responsible to justice.
“However, the measure of success in tackling the sexual exploitation of children is not the number of prosecutions, it is when there are no victims.
“I urge anyone with any concerns or information to speak out and contact the police or any other professional working to protect our children so we can take action.”
Adults who are concerned about a child or young person being sexually exploited can contact the city council on 01782 235100, Staffordshire Police on 101 or the free 24-hour NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.