An under-fire Yorkshire council shelved a key post to tackle child sexual exploitation before a teenage abuse victim was “systematically failed” by the authority’s care services, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
Bradford Council has confirmed that the role of a member of staff who was employed by the authority to help young abuse victims came to an end in 2010, leaving a two-year gap until a unit dedicated to tackling cases of sex exploitation was established.
A serious case review revealed that a girl, known only as Autumn, endured a succession of failings from both council services and West Yorkshire Police in 2011 and 2012 while she was abused by gangs of sexual predators from the age of just 13. She continued to suffer at the hands of the gangs for a year after her first disclosure of rape to three agencies.
The council has stressed that the post lost in 2010 was a secondment, but admitted that it was not until 2012 that a hub was set up to deal with child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services, said: “The role of CSE co-ordinator, which was not a face-to-face role, was a secondment that ended in 2010, and the work was continued by area team managers before the establishment of the CSE hub in 2012. This may have affected how teams responded but it’s important to view the whole report, not just one factor, if we are to learn from what went wrong.”
The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday that an unprecedented level of abuse is being uncovered in the Bradford district with at least 80 per cent more crimes linked to CSE than elsewhere in South and West Yorkshire.
The serious case review published last week disclosed a catalogue of mistakes and missed opportunities from police, social services and agencies to protect Autumn. It criticised social work services for having “little grasp” of what was happening to the vulnerable schoolgirl.
Autumn was recorded as a missing person a total of 70 times between March 2010 and May 2012, but police failed to make the link to CSE.
“We know there were a number of missed opportunities across the different agencies safeguarding arrangements,” said Mr Jameson. “The fact that Autumn was missing on so many occasions should have triggered warning signs at the time for all agencies concerned. The independent report illustrates how improvements have been made and the responses across all agencies would be very different now.”
Bradford Council’s deputy leader Val Slater admitted that mistakes had been made in dealing with CSE in the past.
And the leader of the Tory opposition group, Coun Simon Cooke, said: “We weren’t good enough prior to 2010 – even before this position was culled. We as a council comprehensively failed to support that young woman. I hope that has changed. The question we should then ask is what we are doing now. I think we’re doing a lot.”