Telford takes decisive action

05 June 2018

Clive Jones hits back at recent news coverage surrounding child sexual exploitation in Telford and Wrekin

It is easy to believe everything you read. Recent national coverage of child sexual exploitation has presented Telford in a horrific light and there is no doubt there are questions for several public bodies, including police, health services and the council.

Virtually no-one in Telford and Wrekin has been untouched by the news coverage of this vile crime in our town, with cases allegedly going back four decades.

As a council, we have not and will never ignore it. We have always been determined to ensure Telford is at the leading edge of tackling the subject – both in terms of best practice in prevention and support. We will continue to deal with any new and current cases with absolute compassion and the highest of professional standards.

Over the coming months, a council-commissioned independent inquiry will examine practices, both past and present. This inquiry will be done thoroughly and with complete transparency and will involve survivors to help shape the inquiry.

It aims to ensure survivors have been heard and to give the public confidence in our systems. It will give survivors confidence their influence today is helping prevent more victims tomorrow. It will provide them and us with the confidence to be able to ask questions of others who have responsibility for dealing with this problem at a national level.

Every day we work tirelessly, investing heavily into our specialist Children Abused Through Exploitation Team and our wider safeguarding services. We are continually learning from areas that have also encountered this issue.

We are committed to retaining the trust and confidence of survivors, their families and the community. We are engaging with campaigners, survivors and other organisations. Most of this work will never be publicised, but it is happening and will continue for as long as one person remains at risk from this terrible crime.

We accept and regret that mistakes were made in the past and non-recent practices were not as effective as they should be. We will never shy away from saying this. But it is important to remember that awareness and perceptions of child sexual exploitation just 10 years ago was very different from today.

We firmly believe this council can lead the way nationally when it comes to dealing with child sexual exploitation. Communities everywhere will be able to learn from Telford.

The facts:

–Terrible things happened to several children and young people in Telford & Wrekin, 10, 20, 30 years ago. Those same things have also been happening in towns and cities across the country.

–Teams in the council, police and other agencies came together and set up a task force to identify the issue, tackle it and bring the perpetrators to justice: this was Operation Chalice, which in 2012 resulted in seven men being jailed for a total of 49 years.

–Over the last 10 years, the partners have built ever-closer links. This work and legal action and prosecutions continue today.

–Telford was the first place in the UK to launch prosecutions against an organised grooming gang.

–Telford was the second place in the country to secure convictions for organised child sexual exploitation (CSE).

–Telford continues to have a dedicated team of police, council and other partners working to identify and support victims of CSE and increased resources for the team in 2016/17.

–In 2013, we commissioned an independent review of our approach to CSE so we could learn lessons and further improve. Our Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee also carried out their own multi-agency review in 2016.

–In 2016, Ofsted looked at our children’s services in great detail for four weeks and concluded our work on CSE was ‘strong’, saying: ‘The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue’.

Clive Jones is director of children’s and adult services at Telford & Wrekin Council

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