Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 19 March 2014
Time:
10:30 a.m.
Place:
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
McIntyre (Chair), Biswas, J Hobson, Kerr, Lowes, P Purvis
Invitees:
Councillor Brunton, Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Board
Officers:
S Addison, S Harker, N Pocklington, E Pout, M Robinson
Apologies for absence:
were submitted on behalf of Councillors Brady and Hubbard
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
13/43 MINUTES - COMMUNITY SAFETY AND LEISURE SCRUTINY PANEL - 12 FEBRUARY 2014

The minutes of the meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel held on 12 February 2014 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.

13/44 SCRUTINY RE: EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

The Scrutiny Support Officer outlined the purpose of the meeting which was to receive information from the Deputy Director, Safeguarding, in relation to service engagement in preventative measures in response to the exploitation of children.

 

From the information received at the meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel held on 12 February 2014, the following draft Terms of Reference were outlined as follows:

 

  • Assess the level of the problem of exploited children in Middlesbrough.
  • Assess how effective relevant agencies are in arresting growth and combating the problem.
  • Identify areas where the Council or other agencies can contribute to tackling the exploitation of children.

 

The Deputy Director, Safeguarding, confirmed that there were concerns in Middlesbrough around the number of vulnerable young people missing from home and at risk of being trafficked as part of a sexual exploitation industry. Several groups existed to identify and track vulnerable young males and females and share information. 

 

Across the Cleveland area there was a more significant problem than previously identified, and this was reinforced by a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner about child exploitation. The Commissioner had undertaken a series of visits across the country and visited Middlesbrough to talk about the measures in place. Exploitation had been identified as an emerging issue in Middlesbrough and the numbers were significantly higher than in the other Tees Valley areas. Dozens of young people had been identified and assessed at a particular level; however there was deeper concern about the exploitation networks that existed. 

 

As a result of these concerns, a Vulnerable and Exploited, Missing and Trafficked (VEMT) Group had been established which comprised representatives from Health, Police, Social Care, Probation, Housing and the Chair of the Middlesbrough Safeguarding Children’s Board (MSCB), who represented Safeguarding Boards from across the Tees Valley. 

 

Within the VEMT structure, several groups existed to capture and monitor all the activity taking place. The group that identified exploited children met on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the group for perpetrators had not met as regularly due to restructuring within the Police. However, this group had now been re-invigorated and intelligence was being shared on who the perpetrators were and their modes of operation. The group was also looking at what could be done to prevent or disrupt the perpetrators from exploiting young people. Environmental Health and Licensing were also involved in terms of, for example, identifying young people hanging around in takeaways.

 

Another group met regularly to identify victims, share intelligence as to why they were victims, identify their known associates, areas where they met and build a profile of young people who were potential victims. Currently fifty to sixty young people had been identified by this group as vulnerable to exploitation in Middlesbrough. A plan of safety had been put in place around each of these young people which included monitoring, and if appropriate, referral to safeguarding, when the activity they were involved in was a concern. It was highlighted that moving a victim away from the area could disrupt their education and might also been seen as a punishment.

 

Reference was made to a recent child exploitation trial at Teesside Crown Court. Although not all the defendants were found guilty, those involved would still be monitored by the perpetrators group. The Police were linked to other areas where major investigations had taken place and shared their experiences from a Cleveland perspective. The Police had spent a lot of time gathering evidence and guidance and it had been established that the co-ordinated approach from all agencies was the right approach.

 

The SECOS Project, run by Barnardo’s, had been in existence in Middlesbrough for fifteen years, working closely with victims of exploitation. SECOS had a project in every area of the Tees Valley and a specialist worker in each area. As the main link in terms of supporting victims, SECOS also gathered information about perpetrators and fed this into the VEMT. 

 

The Safeguarding Training Group met twice monthly to discuss emerging themes and changes in legislation and was constantly reviewing and evaluating the training offered. Going forward, the Authority intended to carry out a mapping exercise to establish all the measures and action plans that were in place in terms of addressing the issue of sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough. One of the challenges was to raise public awareness of the issue through people running hotels, boarding houses, bed and breakfast hotels and also through other Council departments such as Licensing and Environmental Health. Middlesbrough’s safeguarding team had an officer directly involved in the licensing process.

 

A recent exercise had been carried out to map exactly who was attending training offered by the Authority to enable certain disciplines to be targeted. It had been identified that school staff did not attend training regularly and a possible reason for this might be because the training was held during the day. If the training on offer was not suitable, it would be altered accordingly.

 

In relation to preventative work in schools, Barnardo’s provided assemblies for children and young people. Training had been provided in relation to grooming, what a safe relationship was, and generally encouraging young people to keep safe and protect themselves. A big issue around the protection of young people was the use of social media, and in particular Facebook, in terms of young people being groomed online. 

 

Barnardo’s also worked with parents to raise awareness of exploitation. When working with an individual young person a twelve week plan was put in place and parenting work was incorporated within that plan. One worker would work directly with the young person and another with their parents. 

 

In response to a query about children and young people coming from abroad to live in Middlesbrough, it was confirmed that Barnardo’s tried to support all families in Middlesbrough. Barnardo’s currently delivered education and training within the BME community and was also working with Czech, Polish and Romanian families.

Barnardo’s also had a Boys’ and Young Men’s Worker, funded by Northern Rock, who worked to support vulnerable young men. Young men tended to be even more complex for example, not attending school, learning difficulties, medical problems and engaged in prostitution. Men were less likely to disclose exploitation due to feeling ashamed of their situation. 

 

With regard to trafficking, there had been six cases of children coming to Middlesbrough from outside the UK in the last five years. They were generally picked up by the Border Agency and usually coming to stay with extended family in Middlesbrough. The Deputy Director of Safeguarding commented that sometimes families were so chaotic that it was difficult not to be suspicious about their living arrangements. 

 

Another element to exploitation was missing children. Whilst missing children were not necessarily exploited, they were vulnerable to exploitation. Every child reported as missing was followed up and efforts made to identify the problems that had led to that incident. Barnardo’s also received referrals for young children who went missing from home or from care. There was regular liaison between Barnardo’s and the Manager of the Looked After Service to ensure that missing children were monitored and supported. The Police had a dedicated Officer who was very proactive in regard to missing children and regularly visited care homes and residential units where he had established a good rapport with the young people. 

 

Recently, Middlesbrough had recorded its lowest figures for missing young people. However, it was anticipated that unfortunately, with the lighter summer nights the numbers would increase again. Barnardo’s provided an outreach service during the evening and tried to target hotspots for young people hanging around, such as Albert Park.

 

Going forward, it was generally agreed that partnership working was key to addressing exploitation. The Deputy Director, Safeguarding, highlighted that it was important that there was a balance between letting teenagers be teenagers, doing normal teenage things, and ensuring they were safe from perpetrators who might exploit them. The main concern voiced by the representative from Barnardo’s was the issue of the internet and the difficulty of gatekeeping and monitoring perpetrators who used this method to target young people. 

 

AGREED that:
 

1. The information provided was received and noted.


2. The draft Terms of Reference were approved as follows:

  •  Assess the level of the problem of exploited children in Middlesbrough.
  •  Assess how effective relevant agencies are in arresting growth and combating the problem.
  •  Identify areas where the Council or other agencies can contribute to tackling the exploitation of children.

3. Representatives from the Police, Middlesbrough’s Pupil Referral Unit and a Middlesbrough School should be invited to the next meeting of the Panel.

 

13/45 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY BOARD UPDATE

The Chair requested that the Panel note the content of the submitted reports which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meetings held on 4 and 20 February and 4 March 2014, namely:

 

4 February 2014

 

  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Feedback from Executive.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

20 February 2014

 

  • 2013/2014 Revenue Budget Projected Outturn Update.
  • Revenue Budget 2014/2014.

4 March 2014

 

  • Executive Decision Monitoring Schedule.
  • Feedback from the Executive.
  • Health and Wellbeing Board Assurance Report.
  • Council Performance and Risk Update: Quarter Three 2013/2014.
  • Final Report of the Economic Regeneration and Transport Scrutiny Panel - 20 MPH Speed Limits.
  • Final Report of the Environment Scrutiny Panel - Allotments.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

NOTED

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