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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual exploitation by organised networks Investigation Report

Contents

J.3: Multi-agency information and intelligence-sharing

13. The government recognises that information-sharing is “absolutely key” to partnership working but that there is some way to go in terms of gathering and linking child sexual exploitation data.[1]

14. The 2019 HMICFRS thematic inspection identified that, as a result of stretched resources, police forces commonly prioritised sharing large volumes of information with partner agencies at the expense of considering what the information told them about risks to children. This meant action was not being taken by the police to mitigate risks.[2] A two-way process of information-sharing is required, so that police systems and child sexual exploitation profiles continuously draw in information and intelligence from all agencies and feed information back into partnerships.[3] HMICFRS found that early identification and response to vulnerability is advanced and well coordinated in Wales but underdeveloped in England, where far more work is needed.[4]

15. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has observed that information-sharing about children at risk of exploitation is inconsistent between local areas in England.[5] It considers it important for each area to have a dedicated professional with access to all information so that children can be tracked through the entire system.[6] This was also a finding of the 2016 JTAI themed inspection.[7] Whilst there may be merit in this proposal, any such arrangement would have to operate within an information-sharing protocol that protected sensitive and confidential information.

16. Barnardo’s says that it receives very little information from the police and others on offenders and its networks[8] but there is evidence to suggest that it receives information from Operation Topaz in Bristol and from South Wales Police’s Child Sexual Exploitation Team in Swansea. Without this intelligence, providers are unable to work effectively with other agencies to make sure that offenders’ behaviours are disrupted. Problems can also be caused by differences in local interpretation of the General Data Protection Regulation.[9]

17. There was evidence of effective information-sharing in Bristol – between police engagement officers, BASE, children’s social care, and Avon and Somerset Police’s Operation Topaz team – for example, working to protect CS-A59 and disrupt his abusers.[10] In Durham, detailed information about children was shared between all relevant agencies at ERASE meetings and there was a clear delegation of responsibility to share information with professionals who were not at the meeting, such as GPs, school nurses and sexual health services. This was evident when ERASE discussed CS-A50.[11] However, ERASE minutes provided for CS-A114 from August 2019 onwards lacked this detailed approach. With regards to the police, the minutes merely recorded the fact that the police had shared information, without giving any indication of the content, and systems for ensuring information is shared with all relevant professionals were no longer in place.[12]

18. Improving the Child Protection – Information Sharing (CP-IS) system, which provides live linking of local authority and health systems, is one of the Department for Education’s priorities, along with information-sharing more generally.[13] It will be important to monitor whether use of the CP-IS results in improvements to outcomes for children who have been or are at risk of being sexually exploited.

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