@wecops blog | Child Sexual Exploitation Chat | Wednesday 14th September 2016 @ 9pm
A few months back, Jenna one of the @wecops team canvassed her fellow students to explore whether they had any ideas or suggestions for an upcoming @wecops debate. Specifically, as ever @wecops was looking for topics that would be a: directly relevant to the frontline and b: that would generate meaningful debate and discussion.
Jonny Blackwell suggested Sexual Exploitation or “CSE”. As a Chief Inspector for West Yorkshire Police responsible for Safeguarding, Jonny oversees the investigations and prosecutions of many tragic cases involving harm being inflicted upon children. He also understands first-hand the complexity and uncertainty that his officers who are investigating these incidents face. For more on this, please read Jonny’s pre-read that we published ahead of the debate. With an increased focus on policing and vulnerability, particularly in relation to the sexual exploitation of children (Rotherham for example) having a @wecops debate to explore the frontline perspectives on this topic seemed timely and relevant.
Jonny and fellow @wecops volunteer Danielle Williams hosted a very successful session which produced some excellent debate, questions and information to consider. The topic attracted input from other relevant agencies involved in this area which, given some of the conversation about the essential cross agency working around this issue, was very positive to see.
The following questions were posed:
- Do front line staff feel sufficiently trained and confident when responding to Child Sexual Exploitation?
- What will help frontline staff to recognize and investigate cases of Child Sexual Exploitation?
- How can frontline staff improve their working practices with partners to protect children from Child Sexual Exploitation?
Question one prompted some interesting debates. Generally the sense was that training was insufficient and both the content and the methods of delivery needed reviewing. NCALT was of course mentioned. @paulabic amongst others, highlighted the complexity and nuance involved in dealing with CSE and the need for investment in the types of training and education that can effectively manage these complexities. @chinspRalph raised cultural change and this led to an important conversation about vulnerability, the police role in dealing with these issues and the need for a shift in what is naturally considered as ‘core police business’. As well as pointing out the positive training methods in Devon and Cornwall he also mentioned how, as a method to further ‘normalise’ police involvement in CSE, it was regularly featured in local tasking processes.
Much conversation focused on the role of other agencies and the need to work with them more closely. @PCStevns1368 highlighted an important point about different levels of knowledge across areas and between officers. The fantastic #superhero campaign was used as an example of good practice and he explained how his knowledge had a grown as a result of his involvement in this, particularly around the role of health and the impact on survivors. Indeed, input from survivors in training was a huge theme, particularly in relation to the complexities involved. This was also related to survivor involvement making it more ‘real’ for officers and helping with some perceptions held of victims. ‘Real examples’ were considered helpful. Unsurprisingly early intervention was raised, particularly in terms of the identification of behaviours that might be symptomatic of CSE (missing persons was mentioned for example) – @DWanalysis. Having health experts on board and perhaps joint training was also welcomed by commentators in this debate to help with this recognition for police.
Responses to question two emphasized the role of supervisors in supporting staff, better CPD in this area (and perhaps in every area!) and better sharing of information between agencies.
The role of empathy in dealing with victims and the role of everyone in getting this right. @ WYPDeeCollins stated the need for a culture that recognizes that CSE is everyone’s responsibility. Therefore preventing and getting the investigation right is about a joined up approach. This promoted much conversation from our friends’ @wenurses which was encouraging in light of the regular mention of cross agency working on this issue. I particularly liked the link to the role of community officers and schools in identifying the symptoms and gathering intelligence locally – perhaps highlighting the critical role of this being seen as ‘core business’ for the police and not an add-on or a specialist, almost separate issue.
@dedicatedpeeler mentioned the need for emotional buy in to drive change and I think this links well what so many contributors said about the role of and involvement of survivors in getting this message across for the police.
Question three again stressed the impact of increased knowledge of the victims’ experiences in better understanding this issue. However this also related to learning from their experiences with the system. This is reflective and can facilitate a learning culture that can only assist with effectively driving forward the changes that so many discussed. Similar issues were raised about information sharing, early intervention for prevention and multi-agency relationships being key in driving all of this. Perhaps one thing that might have come up more but was however, mentioned, was the role of the leadership in making CSE a priority and allowing it to be considered as core business for police. Visible leadership in supporting improvements for dealing with CSE is key. Without the strategic level driving those relationships there may be limitations to success.
The debate was one of @wecops most successful to date. The most encouraging points related to the clear passion officers have to dealing with this better both in relation to identifying it, preventing it and investigating it. Plus the emphasis placed on ALL officers having a role to play in dealing with this crime. The need for better understanding was prominent – particularly in relation to hearing from the victims and empowering them to tell their stories to facilitate learning and change.
Well done all!