Council child care workers and police are to explore the possibility of going into schools to raise awareness of the dangers of child sexual exploitation.
Members of a multi-disciplinary team, working to the Cheshire West and Chester Safeguarding Children Board, are to discuss the idea with headteachers, as part of new plans designed to thwart predators.
A report by strategic director of education Gerald Meehan before Executive on Wednesday (September 4) outlines local and pan-Cheshire commitment to meeting government priorities on the issue and keeping children safe.
The director outlines an action plan which also includes developing ways of collating and sharing information; ensuring training is at appropriate levels and awareness-raising materials are made available to frontline staff across all agencies.
A quick reference guide on child sexual exploitation is being developed and distributed to all front-line workers across the partner agencies, together with an electronic system to enable child protection workers to identify and track vulnerable youngsters.
It will also facilitate greater transparency about adults linked to the children concerned which will aide more effective detection and disruption of child sexual exploitation.
Cllr Mark Stocks, executive member for education and children, said: “Whilst West Cheshire has thankfully not experienced the sort of problems which have given rise to recent national concerns, we owe it to our children to create a system of the utmost vigilance.
“Schools already do some of this work but we want to ensure that everything possible is being done to educate young people about the potential dangers.
“One of the major problems facing child care professionals – highlighted by University of Bedfordshire research – is that many incidents go unreported because victims are reluctant to come forward or are possibly unaware of the extent or implications of their abuse.
“We hope that the right early education in schools may have an effect on both these factors.”
Since April, joint agency tracking has identified nine young girls – aged between 13 to 16-years-of-age – as being potentially vulnerable to child sexual exploitation.
In each case, early joint intervention by police, children’s social care and health workers has managed and reduced risks and provided support for the youngsters concerned.
A further seven other young people giving cause for concern were assessed as not being at risk.
Cllr Stocks added: “Local authorities have been asked to take strong proactive action on this issue which is exactly what this authority and its partners across Cheshire intend to do.
“We shall be asking for the Executive support on progress so far and also making it quite clear that there will be no hiding place in Cheshire for those who seek to exploit children.”
The police led strategic group with a Cheshire-wide responsibility for child sexual exploitation and missing from home, recognises that youngsters who go missing from home or care are at increased risk of sexual exploitation.
This group has produced a pan-Cheshire strategy and protocol with this dual focus which has now been approved by each Safeguarding Children Board for each of the four county authorities.