Exclusive: Public services ‘STILL not dealing properly with child grooming’

Bradford city centre.
Bradford city centre.
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Healthcare systems are even now lagging behind in their ability to respond adequately to child sexual exploitation, a senior Bradford politician has claimed.

A catalogue of mistakes and missed opportunities has been acknowledged at both Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Police in their protection of a young girl in the district in 2011 and 2012.

The teenager, known only as Autumn, was just 13 and 14 when she was repeatedly sexually abused by a gang of Asian men.

In a Serious Case Review into her care, it emerged she was sent home by her GP with contraceptives and literature after telling them she had been raped at the age of just 13. This “inadequate” response failed to meet child protection responsibilities to safeguard Autumn, the report published last week found.

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Now Coun Simon Cooke, leader of the opposition Conservative party at Bradford Council, has said he fears there is still a long way to go with some agencies.

“The report highlights some really significant problems in the way in which we were dealing with this as an issue,” he said.

“Nobody could say anything other than ‘the council got it wrong’. No excuse could be made for that. We failed in our duty.But there are issues in that report that I don’t think are being addressed right now.

“The health system, the primary care and GPs in particular, are still a long way behind in terms of being able to respond adequately.

“I’m not trying to pass the buck – the council has a lot of work to do as well. But I do think there are some other really significant failings.”

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 series of 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.

And, the report also revealed, there were failures from her GP to protect Autumn when she first came forward to ask for help.

Paul Twomey, medical director from NHS England, said learnings from this report were to be shared with health professionals.

“Our condolences are with Autumn and we hope that this report brings some closure to these events for her,” he said. “We would also like to thank the independent chair for this report and we fully accept its recommendations. We can confirm that the GP involved in Autumn’s care retired some years ago and was reported by NHS England to the General Medical Council (GMC) when these issues came to light.”

There is a robust support network for healthcare organisations and GPs in Bradford, the district’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have said.

There is a dedicated safeguarding team, offering leadership, support and advice to healthcare organisations and working with GPs, hospitals and surgeries to support safeguarding work and ensure effective arrangements are in place to protect children.

“NHS England takes its safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously,” a spokesman said. The guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC) is clear that it is a doctor’s responsibility to ensure they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to carry out their role.

“GPs receive regular support from their local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS England to do that.”