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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual exploitation by organised networks Investigation Report


F.5: Protection of children in the case study areas

32. Durham County Council’s assessment of the risks relating to CS-A29, CS-A114, CS-A118 and CS-A50 was inadequate.[1] The assessment for each child described a catalogue of harm by networks of perpetrators with little evidence of effective action to stop the sexual abuse of the child. The levels of intervention and protection given, and the outcomes for these children, were very poor. Durham County Council accepted that the assessed risks to CS-A29 moved from high to low too quickly and that the risk assessment was clear that CS-A50 was at high risk “but the way in which the classification was used at that time, they were not identified at high risk”.[2] In respect of CS-A50, there was evidence of improved practice by children’s social care from early 2019, when appropriate interventions resulted in protection from harm and improved outcomes.[3]

33. In Swansea, past abuse did not appear to have been properly taken into account when considering the risks posed to CS-A24. The focus was instead on immediate risk. Swansea Council acknowledged that past harm is a good predictor of future harm and “it would have been important to consider that as part of the risk assessment”.[4]

34. There were concerns about how the risk assessment process operated in Warwickshire. CS-A1 was accommodated by Warwickshire County Council in May 2016, aged 13, as her family felt they could not keep her safe at home. She had a series of short-term placements. She absconded from school on an almost daily basis and stayed out late. Her family repeatedly emphasised that CS-A1 was at high risk of sexual exploitation throughout the second half of 2016. It was not until May 2017 that Warwickshire County Council agreed that she was at high risk. On review of the relevant material, this assessment was flawed – the high risk should have been identified and CS-A1 protected earlier. CS-A2, CS-A1’s mother, considered the fact that CS-A1 had nine social workers in four years interfered with attempts to protect CS-A1.[5] Warwickshire County Council accepted the delay and stressed the changes in the risk assessment process that have taken place since then.[6] CS-A2 emphasised that early intervention could have prevented her daughter from being further sexually exploited.[7] The abuse CS-A1 experienced included being exposed to drugs and alcohol from an early age, being expected to deliver drugs to other people, a lack of access to appropriate education and being sexually abused by older males.

35. In St Helens, CS-A26 was a looked after child who was considered to be at very high risk of child sexual exploitation. St Helens Council accepted that the initial placement in fact increased the risk to CS-A26. The outcomes for CS-A26 only improved in October 2018 when a specialist child sexual exploitation placement was arranged, three years after risk was evident.[8]

36. St Helens Council also accepted that the risk assessments for CS-A27 and CS-A71 were inadequate. In the case of CS-A27, Mr Jim Leivers, Interim Director of Children’s Services, said that he did not understand what risk assessment had been done by the placing local authority when staff were escorting this child to the homes of people that were not known to him and had contacted him through the Grindr online dating app.[9] In relation to CS-A71, Mr Leivers considered that the risk assessments undertaken between September 2018 and January 2019 were not appropriate to safeguard the best interests of the child. The assessment that the risks to the child had reduced because she was living in the home of a new boyfriend was “certainly a real issue”.[10]

37. The evidence relating to the Tower Hamlets case study children showed its previous risk assessment documents being ineffective in assessing risk. Three assessments of 13-year-old CS-A81 were completed in 2018. One in July 2018 considered her to be at medium risk. In September 2018, she was assessed as being at high risk after frequent episodes of going missing and being seen on Snapchat (a social media platform) and by other young people at house parties. In the same month, the Police Sexual Exploitation Team closed her case (against the advice of children’s social care).[11] The risk assessments did not record the age or date of birth of CS-A81. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets accepted that she should have been graded high risk and that the assessments were generally “on the back foot” and “reactionary”. Overall, it recognised that CS-A81’s case was “of the utmost concern”.[12]

38. A more positive approach to risk assessment was apparent in the case of CS-A59 in Bristol. He was at risk of sexual exploitation via the dating app Grindr and was in a range of extremely dangerous, abusive situations. The evidence suggests that Bristol City Council took a proactive approach to reducing harm, including exploring the use of Grindr with CS-A59, discussing the risks and what he was getting from its use. This led to him choosing to not use the app for a period.[13]

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