Bradford has ‘lessons to learn’ over decades of child sexual exploitation, review finds

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bradford still has “lessons to learn” to protect children from sexual exploitation (CSE), a major case review into two decades of abuse reveals.

Bradford Partnership has apologised over the review. Picture: Adobe Stock
Bradford Partnership has apologised over the review. Picture: Adobe Stock

Some children “remain unprotected” from such abuse “despite some significant improvements in agency understanding of and responses to CSE between the less recent and current cases”, the independent review by charity director Clare Hyde, of Foundations for Families, states.

The review into safeguarding by the Bradford Partnership - which incorporates social care, health and police service - was launched in April 2019 following the conviction of nine men over the abuse of young girls but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It details cases of five children dating as far back as 2001 and finds that “while there has been considerable work in the district in relation to CSE there are still lessons that need to be learned and the responses to victims of this complex crime is not yet good enough in all cases”.

It notes that “the multiple disadvantages and the traumas experienced by the majority of the children included in this review pre-dated their sexual exploitation and abuse” and calls on the district to treat CSE as a “continuation” of trauma and abuse when implementing safeguarding practices.

Most of the children included in the review “have lived with domestic abuse, physical and emotional abuse and neglect for most of their lives”, the report states noting “system failures” have led victims to become more susceptible to CSE.

“This therefore poses a challenge for commissioners, managers and practitioners,” it adds, stating that a number of perpetrators “remain unknown and unchallenged” by professionals.

In a series of recommendations, the review calls on the partnership to improve joint working to create long-term approaches “which address the human and financial costs of a child’s lifetime exposure to trauma, abuse, neglect and exploitation”.

Hyde also recommends improved knowledge of practitioners of the use of drugs and alcohol in grooming children and the impact of cultural backgrounds, disadvantage and disability on the vulnerability of children.

School placements should be made available for children similar to those mentioned in the review and “steps should be taken to improve school attendance of those who are missing out on education”, she adds.

The partnership should also work to understand outcomes for young girls who fall pregnant following abuse, the review states, noting the adoption of two children whose biological mothers’ cases of abuse were mentioned in the report.

The Bradford Partnership has apologised “to the young people identified in this report and any others where the actions of agencies in Bradford has failed to protect them from child sexual exploitation”.

A joint statement from Mark Douglas, director of children’s services at Bradford Council, Helen Hirst, chief officer, Bradford District and Craven clinical commissioning group and Bradford district commander chief superintendent Daniel Greenwood, said: “The review makes difficult reading. Many of the issues are consistent with those found in the detailed Ofsted inspection of children’s social care that was carried out in 2018 and in the partnership’s own audits and those of single agencies. However, there is learning for all agencies as a result of this review.

“We fully accept more needs to be done which is why, along with recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring our children are safe will be the partnership’s number one priority.”

Meanwhile, Lambeth Council has “unreservedly apologised” over a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which found that staff and councillors presided over a "culture of cover-up" that led to more than 700 children in south London care homes suffering abuse.

The report criticised the council for allowing abuse in five homes from the 1960s to the 1990s.

It said abusers were able to infiltrate homes and the foster system.

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