Fall in number of children at risk of child sexual exploitation in Nottinghamshire

The number of Nottinghamshire children identified as at risk of sexual exploitation fell during the Covid-19 pandemic, figures have shown.

By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 2nd August 2021, 8:20 am

This comes despite a warning from the county council’s service director that safeguarding teams did not have “the same eyes on children” during lockdowns.

Nottinghamshire County Council figures show 438 children were identified as being at risk of sexual exploitation in 2020-21.

This was down from 502 the previous year.

There has been a fall in number of children at risk of child sexual exploitation in Nottinghamshire.

However, safeguarding teams on the council completed 430 risk assessments last year, a rise from 344 in 2019-20.

Council documents say the pandemic had a “direct impact” on the number of sexual exploitation cases across the county.

Teams investigating the crimes saw a decrease in the number of overall incidents recorded.

But police investigation units began seeing increases in referrals month on month, a continuing trend following an initial dip at the start of lockdown.

Both the police and the council have systems in place to manage those most at risk from exploitation, council documents state.

However, monthly referrals to the multi-agency sexual exploitation panel (MASE), which assesses extreme cases, also fell during the same period.

The panel reviewed 43 cases in 2020-21, down from 65 the year previously and the lowest since 2017.

But Laurence Jones, service director on the council, told the recent children and young peoples’ committee meeting that there were challenges for staff during the pandemic.

These included the closure of schools throughout a large part of 2020 and difficulties around some teams working remotely.

“What we haven’t had is the level of community scrutiny, as we haven’t with any safeguarding with schools being closed.

“We haven’t quite had the same eyes on children, although huge efforts have been made by schools to try and keep tabs on those we know are most vulnerable.

“There is a real recognition of girls in their mid-teens being at risk, what I would say is the issue is probably more about what we don’t know than what we do.

“We’re able to focus quite closely on that group, and for a number of years, we’ve been looking to improve awareness that boys might be being exploited as well.

“That might be less visible. When we do our annual reports this has been an annual priority, looking to understand and address that.”

Of the victims of child sexual exploitation, council figures show 90 per cent are girls aged between 15 and 16.

Councillor Michelle Welsh was alarmed by the statistics.

She told the meeting: “This is really quite a specific age range and is quite high with regards to females. It’s bad it’s happening to both genders.

“It’s a large percentage, females aged between 15 and 16 years old, and at some point, I would like some additional information in regards to this.

“Is it happening in a particular area of Nottinghamshire? It’s quite an alarming statistic.”

The committee noted the statistics, which will be brought before councillors annually.